Category Archives: Uncategorized

I’m a type-one diabetic in the midst of a pandemic

I’m a type-one diabetic.

Because of the COVID-19 virus, I’m realizing how many of you didn’t know that.

You all know someone like me who you don’t realize you could be impacting by not taking this pandemic serious, and it has been scaring the crap out of me for weeks.

I’ve been diabetic for 22 years.  Actually, this week is the anniversary of my diagnosis.  I was 12 years old.  For those not in the know, I couldn’t prevent this disease.  My pancreas is defective.

It’s not something I talk about on a regular basis anymore.  I’m not ashamed of it.  It used to make me feel different.  I’ve written about it in the LA Times, talked about it on podcasts, and even been studied in other countries because of me talking about it publicly.  (Read my LA Times article from 2008 here.)  After 22 years, puncturing yourself with a needle several times a day becomes routine, and you forget that’s not other people’s normal.  Over the past few years it has become something I don’t talk about unless it comes up naturally in discussion.  So, if this is the first you’re hearing of my chronic illness, I promise you that it’s not that I don’t think we are close.  There are people I’m not close with who know because it simply came up.

The most recent example I can think of was with my buddy and fellow producer Joey.  The subject of diabetes literally came up in conversation and I said, “You know I’m diabetic right?”  He didn’t know.  We are close, and have known each other for a few years.  I blame myself for not knowing which of you don’t know.  I shouldn’t have relied on it to come up in conversation.

I bring this up now though, because I am feeling threatened by so many people I know, because of their rhetoric and behavior.  The number of ignorant conversations that it only is affecting old people is alarming.  I am someone this virus could dramatically impact, because of my pre-existing condition.  We are now getting news of people dying in their 30’s with pre-existing conditions.  Fortunately, I’ve been tracking this virus for months because of my Father-in-Law who is always on top of global events.

I’ve socially isolated for nearly 2 weeks now.  My wife hasn’t been as lucky, because she works in the banking industry, deemed a necessary business even during the CA shelter-in-place order.  Fortunately, she too has been taking proper precautions and we are both in good health for now, because we have been ahead of most.

I get that it’s difficult to stay indoors to stop the spread.  I get that everyone is losing money and jobs and sanity.  I’ve lost thousands of dollars myself.  I was filming a stand-up show dependent on live audiences.  I’ve not quite lost my sanity.  And I especially don’t want to lose my life…I am relying on so many of you who probably won’t die because of this, but could impact me and many others like me.

#46 – Start A Podcast

Everyone has a podcast.

I usually hate doing what other people do, because it’s harder to stand out amongst a group of people all doing the same thing.

But I started a podcast.

I didn’t start a podcast for the usual reasons people start a podcast. I am not trying to get attention. I am not trying to get advertisers. I don’t even care about how many people download the episodes. I mean, it would be nice if you listened to it, but really I don’t care.

My only goal: to get people jobs.

Last year I was passed up on a gig that I should’ve at least been interviewed for. I had recommendations from network executives and friends of the showrunner. Even people the showrunner reached out to said I should be considered. The gig was to book comedians for a show, something I have done before. Despite all the recommendations, I didn’t get a phone call.

I wasn’t bitter. It’s part of the game. I took my misfortune as an opportunity to examine myself. I recognize that about every four years I have to alter my career path just a bit to maintain relevance. Show business is fickle and if you stick with the same methods for too long you become stale and people stop caring. All the biggest stars recognize this. That’s why you’ve been witness to so many versions of Madonna and Bowie.

Even mega producers like Judd Apatow have a few flops in a row before switching things up. Do you remember what followed “BridesMaids” and “Get Him to the Greek?” Some stinkers like “The Five Year Engagement,” and “Anchorman 2.” Then he came out with “Trainwreck” which most people loved before Amy Schumer started her path toward becoming the next annoying Dane Cook. OK, I’m getting off track.

I was strictly a journalist from ages 18 to 21. I switched gears a bit and became a TV producer and journalist from ages 21 to 25. From ages 26 to 30 I have strictly been a TV producer and all the other things that come with that like writer and casting director.

During each of those transitions came an influencer to lead the movement in a direction. What launched my last four-year run of non-stop working on TV shows was this blog. It got me a lot of work, because it showcased my writing and that I was hustling on my own. It got me one show, which led to another show, which led me to another show. At the time, everyone had a blog. Hell, everyone still has a blog. But I didn’t care about how many readers I was getting. I have a formula to look back on that did me well.

Now back to the podcast.

I listen to only two podcasts. “WTF w/ Marc Maron” and “The Industry Standard w/ Barry Katz.” By this point, most people know “WTF,” since Maron interviewed Obama last year. His motivation for starting his podcast years ago was that he had nothing of extreme relevance going on in his career. He knew he could talk to people and that he had famous friends, so why not start something that he could control, unlike the inability to acquire a show on TV, which requires an infinite number of executives and people to say, “yes.”

For me, the gig I was passed up on was not the first, and it certainly won’t be the last, but it was the first time I got passed up when I had so many people speaking on my behalf. It got me motivated.

It was easy to come up with the concept for my podcast. I know so many comedians who make a living in comedy, but don’t get the recognition they deserve. They have so many stories to tell, so many questions unanswered about where their path is heading, and so many battles to appreciate the present while keeping an outlook for the future. Also, they all have uniquely different paths to how they got involved in comedy. I have conversations about all those topics with so many of them at the Hollywood Improv, the Comedy Store, the Laugh Factory, the Comedy Cellar, and every other comedy club that starts with “the.” Now, I just record the conversations.

The goal of the podcast is simple. I wanted to get these people work, and in turn get me work. My whole network of people is all in show business. I don’t have normal friends anymore. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and my responsibility in my career has been to find out what a person’s story is, and tell it.

IMG_3099

I’ve recorded some episodes in some less than ideal situations like in my old apartment on Hollywood Blvd and this hotel room in San Luis Obispo.

I also didn’t have anything to lose in starting the podcast. In today’s world, everyone tries to stay as private as possible for fear of saying something that will offend others or perhaps be portrayed in an unflattering light. I have always put myself out there and shared more than a safe amount of information about myself. You simply have to read early posts of this blog to realize that fact.

In order to be taken serious about the podcast I knew I had to get some episodes up, and not just do like 20 of them. I have seen podcasts come and go, but the ones that have an impact are the ones that stick around and produce a lot of episodes. My thinking was that if I released two a week I could get to over 100 episodes in a year, which in television is the old syndication model that 100 episodes of anything is significant.

The other aspect of television that I took when building the podcast is that I told myself I have to release every Monday and Thursday no matter what. I took that from the Maron format and decided I would release an episode on the same days at the same times of each week. People told me I was crazy to put those expectations on myself. But just like TV shows, people need to know when to find your show. You don’t see “Modern Family” changing its air date and time from week to week, but so many other people record and release their podcasts with no set schedule. I refused to be like that. Well, at first I refused to be like that.

As of this publishing date I am at episode 47. I kept up with the two episode a week model all the way until episode 43. Then I hit a wall. It wasn’t a creative wall, but rather one of time. I was producing “Hellevator” on GSN 15 hours a day, got hired by Just For Laughs for the Montreal Comedy Festival, pitching my own shows, and trying to maintain the podcast. There’s only a certain amount of hours in the day. Excuses, excuses, excuses.

I didn’t think it was insane for someone like me who is typically behind the camera to start a podcast. I know how to interview because of my prior career as a journalist and in casting you have to conduct interviews in auditions on camera all of the time. I also know how to book people and tell stories, and I have a seemingly endless pool of talent to pull from.

People started telling me that I would run out of quality people to interview at a certain point. Quality is relative. I have taken criticism in the past because I am pretty positive with comedy people. I believe there is a position for everyone in this community. Not everyone should be a stand-up comedian. Not everyone should be a writer. Not everyone should have a sitcom. Not everyone should be a producer. But I believe everyone can find a niche, so that is what I intended to do with my podcast, encourage the person in comedy to find their niche.

My next step was to figure out how to record the podcast. I am not a tech person. I sit behind cameras. I don’t shoot them. Same goes for audio equipment. I asked friends of mine what they record with, did my research online, and decided if I was going to do this then I would buy the best equipment possible. Fortunately, it was November and my birthday and Christmas were coming up, so my Mom asked me how much money I needed to get the podcast started. I told her $700 and she said Merryy BirthMas.

After that, the only things left to do was come up with a name for the show and some cover art for iTunes and the other podcast outlets. I was going to call it “The Grass is Greener Podcast” but I didn’t want people to think it was a show about weed and also that’s a really long name. I like having the medium in the title of all my projects hence why “Blog” is in the title of “The Discomfort Blog,” so “Podcast” had to be in there.

I liked the idea of talking about how everyone in show business thinks the grass is always greener. No matter who you are, you think someone else has it better, easier, or is more fortunate. It doesn’t matter how successful you are, you have that in you. I was playing around with the title and realized that “Grass is Greener” has the acronym “G.I.G.” and gigs, aka jobs, is exactly what I would be talking about with all these comics, since everyone in comedy is constantly obsessed with getting the next gig, getting to a gig, working toward the dream gig, and all of us have a different version of all of those. “The G.I.G. Podcast” just seemed to be perfect, because it could also simply be just “The G.I.G.” for short.

GIG Logo Lib

I took this picture back in 2012. Who knew back then that it would end up being useful?

With the name set, I just needed comedian guests. The first ones I wanted to sit down with were people I had conversations with all the time already so the tone would be natural and not forced. Nick Guerra was someone I always chatted with about how there is no rhyme or reason to anything we are shooting for in show business. He was essentially my muse for this. Other people I had these conversations with were Shawn Halpin, Taylor Williamson, Jesus Trejo, and Sharon Houston. I got them all in on my first few episodes.

It has been remarkable to see some of those people go on to do great things like Nick Guerra doing “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” and Jesus Trejo getting New Faces at Montreal Just For Laughs. My podcast definitely didn’t help them get those things, but our conversations discussed their goals, and to see them go on and accomplish some of those goals is pretty special.

Some of the more recent episodes have been with comedians I didn’t know well but met at different events or venues and have since become friends with like Daniel Weingarten, Briana Hansen, and Ron Josol.

I don’t know what will come of this. I don’t know if I will get work from this or if any of my guests will. I think we all will. I wouldn’t spend my time on it if I thought it was a waste of time.

If anything, everyone who comes on the show for a conversation at least appears to leave with the sense that they’re not alone. The hour I spend with the comedian is a time for deep reflection. Some have left with some self-realizations. Others have felt like it was a therapy session. Some are just happy to find out they’re not alone with what they’re dealing with in their personal and professional life. I know they feel that way, because they tell me…

And because I feel less alone after our chat.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

#44 – Vacation in Hawaii

I don’t vacation.

Since I started my career at 18 years old I have only been on one vacation, a cruise to Cabo San Lucas with my family when I was 21 years old and working at the Los Angeles Times.

Clearly "Elation" in the background depicts my mood from that cruise back in 2008. I had fun on that cruise, but in reality I didn't have many real life stresses at 22 years old, so a vacation this time around was much more needed.

Clearly “Elation” in the background depicts my mood from that cruise back in 2008. I had fun on that cruise, but in reality I didn’t have many real life stresses at 22 years old, so a vacation this time around was much more needed.

I didn’t think I would vacation ever again, until my girlfriend Zoe told me I had to go to Hawaii with her. I got back last week.

I know it sounds ridiculous, but there are a few reasons why I don’t vacation. The first being that from ages 18 to 25 I was fairly broke trying to establish my career. All the money I did make during that time typically was re-invested into my career. When I did have extra spending money during that time I typically went to Las Vegas or other party cities where relaxing really isn’t what you go for.

And from 26 to 30 years old I have worked non-stop on shows. During this time of my life I got plenty of invites to go on fun trips, but my work schedule never allowed it.

The other thing is that during this time I also got to visit some pretty cool places because the TV shows I worked on would pay for me to travel, and most of the time I got to go with friends since I typically work with people I hang out with.

Traveling for work has allowed me to see some pretty cool places like the French Quarter in New Orleans on Halloween in 2014.

Traveling for work has allowed me to see some pretty cool places like the French Quarter in New Orleans on Halloween in 2014.

Zoe was planning a trip to Hawaii around the week of March 12, because her best friend Susan was getting married and Zoe was named the Maid of Honor. She had known this date months in advance, but with my schedule I can never plan that far in advance, so I told her to plan on going without me. I know, I’m a really thoughtful boyfriend.

As the date got closer, I still told her I didn’t think I should go, because I was in the midst of looking for my next show, and I didn’t think I’d be able to enjoy a vacation without knowing if I had a gig locked in. Nor did I think it would be smart to spend money on a vacation when I don’t have a gig waiting for me upon my return.

I think she recognized that I would never allow myself to go, so she bought me a plane ticket and said I was going with her. I don’t always make the best choices, but I certainly did when I decided to start dating her.

She left two days before me so she could help put some finishing touches on the wedding plans. When I began to pack my suitcase I made the conscious decision not to bring my laptop. It was the first time I’ve ever left town without it. I would’ve left my phone too if it wasn’t for my need to depict how dope my life is perceived to be on Instagram.

As soon as she picked me up from the airport in Honolulu, I was glad she bought me a ticket. I have been stressed out, and when you’re in the midst of stress you don’t realize just how worn down you are until you power down. For me, that was on the six-hour flight from LAX to HA. I downloaded a bunch of podcasts from Marc Maron and Barry Katz, and the only thing I remember from their conversations was the first two minutes before I passed out each time I selected a new episode. Most people dislike the time spent on an airplane, but I enjoy it because it’s the one time no one in my life can bother me for something they need, especially when it’s on a flight with a company like Hawaiian Airlines, which doesn’t provide Internet access.

Susan and her husband Justin live in Hawaii already, so it was much easier for them to plan a Hawaii wedding. They decided to rent out this giant compound called Hale Koa Phineas Estates for the festivities. The compound has two giant houses on it with a basketball court, tennis court, pool, hot tub, and lots of beautiful landscape. It’s right on the beach in North Shore, and as we pulled into the estate I was even happier that Zoe made me go.

The compound sleeps over 40 people, that’s how many bedrooms and beds there are. The first night was a very big party until the wee hours in the morning. The following Friday morning Susan took a bunch of us on a hike up the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail, which halfway up to the top leads to a hike down a different side of the mountain to the Makapu’u Tidepools.

This is nearly at the point where we started our hike down the side of the cliff.

This is nearly at the point where we started our hike down the side of the cliff. That paved road is where we hiked up from. The path down the side of the cliff is definitely not as smooth.

I consider myself to have great physical stamina considering how many years I’ve been a runner and how much I hike Runyon Canyon in Los Angeles, but this hike down to the tidepools and back up afterward absolutely kicked my ass. I am writing this piece exactly one week after this hike, and I am still sore. Not even joking. This is 30.

The hike is literally straight down with loose dirt in some places and on the way back up you literally have to climb rocks. I am not afraid of heights, but it’s best not to look down at any point. I cut my hands a little bit going down the cliff, and once we got to the tidepools I jacked up my knees because I slipped several times on black slimy rocks while I was trying to take advantage of the photo opps for all the ladies. The hike back up made me question all my life choices. But the time spent in the surrounding water was an experience I will never forget.

No words can do this justice.

No words can do this justice.

The following Saturday was the actual wedding day, which meant I got to do whatever I wanted while Zoe and the bridesmaids got ready for showtime with Susan. What I chose to do was drink and watch TV after hitting the beach in the morning. I was too sore and had too many gashes in my feet for another adventure. I hung out with some of the other guys who weren’t in the wedding. We grabbed some seafood at a shrimp truck and went into town for some last minute clothes shopping for the wedding.

I could eat at shrimp shacks like this all day every day.

I could eat at shrimp shacks like this all day every day. This particular one has been featured on all those travel and food channel shows, so you know it was good.

The wedding was beautiful, and I was happy to be a guest of Susan and Justin. Even though I knew them for only a year I felt participatory in their experience since Zoe had me write their story of how they met for their wedding website, and I went along with Zoe to pick up Susan’s dress and also got into arguments with stores in the fashion district of Los Angeles who didn’t have the wedding reception napkins ready when they promised.

Here is the bride and groom.

Here is the bride and groom.

On Sunday morning Zoe and I woke up super early because we wanted to take advantage of our last day in Hawaii. We both didn’t know the next time we’d both have time for another vacation so we wanted to make the most of the final day. We left for Pearl Harbor at around 8am, because I like getting a little bit of historical perspective on places I visit.

Pearl Harbor offers three-hour tours, but if I learned anything from Gilligan's Island, it's best not to take a three hour tour.

Pearl Harbor offers three-hour tours, but if I learned anything from Gilligan’s Island, it’s best not to take a three hour tour.

From there we went to the beach on Waimanalo Bay, which is a pretty secluded beach.

I snapped some sexy shots of Zoe on this beach for her, but this one of her peeing in the ocean was for me...I don't know why she puts up with me.

I snapped some sexy shots of Zoe on this beach for her, but this one of her peeing in the ocean was for me…I don’t know why she puts up with me.

After a few hours there we went to Waikiki and then on to a location called China Walls to watch the sunset.

Hawaii provides its own filter.

Hawaii provides its own filter.

Spending so much time on the North Shore was certainly an experience. When you decide to stay in that area it’s a solid hour to get to anywhere that resembles civilization. I think I did a great job of disconnecting from social media and the rest of my life. Of course that didn’t go without a hitch though.

I am considering a career move to North Shore to become an Instagram Model.

I am considering a career move to North Shore to become an Instagram Model.

I had to take one business phone call on a job that I didn’t feel was a right fit for me, and I did submit my resume one time for a job that I really wanted, but other than those two occurrences I didn’t think once about my career or comedy. It felt great not to feel obligated to make an appearance somewhere for the good of my career. It felt good to take a breather. It felt good to not have any worries. I thought I would be very uncomfortable, because I don’t vacation and my mind runs on overdrive, but I had the time of my life.

The happiness in this picture sums up the whole trip.

The happiness in this picture sums up the whole trip.

This blog has really just been my 21st century version of showing you a slideshow of my Hawaiian vacation. Tune in nine years from now when I go on my next vacation.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

#42 – Bury My Stepdad

I was watching Abby Lee Miller have a mental breakdown in the middle of the bank when my Mom text me.

“Baber passed away at 3:25pm…”

That’s how my Mom broke the news to me that my stepdad died.

I don't know how long ago this was, but I am sure it was early on in their relationship because my Mom hadn't made him grow a beard yet. Everyone agreed that the goatee looked a lot better on him than what he had in this picture.

I don’t know how long ago this was, but I am sure it was early on in their relationship because my Mom hadn’t made him grow a moustache yet. Everyone agreed that the goatee looked a lot better on him than what he had in this picture.

I wasn’t shocked. She and I knew it was coming. Just hours prior, arrangements were being made to put him on hospice, because the doctors couldn’t do anything else for him. My initial reaction was more of relief than anything else. It’s not easy watching a family member suffer. I don’t know how my Mom and sister did it for two years. I had already been in LA for six years by the time he got his diagnosis, so I only occasionally saw him at less than 50 percent of what he used to be.

It was Thursday July 2, 2015. On a normal Thursday I would’ve been at work in Culver City for another three to four hours, but because we had the Friday off before the fourth of July, my boss told everyone we could leave early. So I went to visit my girlfriend Zoe at work at her bank. Last fourth of July weekend I was in Las Vegas at Encore Beach Club watching Macklemore and Ne-Yo perform. Zoe was also in Vegas at Encore Beach Club. We weren’t together. We hadn’t met yet. This year our plan was to go to Marina Del Rey. Our friend Michael invited us on his boat to party down there.

I didn’t want to tell a lot of people. I told my oldest friend Matt because Matt pretty much grew up with me in our house. I told my oldest LA friend Chris, because he almost lost his Dad last Christmas. I told Michael because we were going to spend fourth of July with him and he’s a good friend and I didn’t just want to be a no-show. Beyond that, I didn’t speak to anyone, which is not easy for me. In the days coming, I had to tell more people, because I was M.I.A. and people were inviting me to do things, and I had to explain why I couldn’t.

I don’t know how I would have reacted if I was still at work. I probably would have walked outside until I gained my composure before asking to leave early. Instead, I was in a very public place watching a very public figure cause a very public scene. Who knows what the “Dance Moms” star was on but every other customer in the branch was trying to figure it out as she bellowed at the top of her lungs for employees to “do their job.”

I couldn’t ignore the irony of what the past 2 months had been like. Television is my life. I will do anything for it. You have to have that mentality if you work in it and want to be successful. I put a temporary hold on that mentality by turning down great jobs because of things in my personal life. My stepdad’s cancer came back vigorously in April. I got an offer from “Storage Wars: Miami” the day after that news broke. They wanted me to work in Miami for three months. I was also offered my first showrunner gig in New Orleans around the same time. They wanted me in New Orleans for way longer than three months.

I felt I couldn’t leave Los Angeles, not only because my stepdad and Mom are only an hour and a half drive away in San Diego, but because I also moved in to an awesome new place with my girlfriend and upon my return to LA didn’t want to see freshly painted pink walls and a new puppy. The pink walls and puppy aside, I knew he was on his way out, and I had to be there for my family.

We didn’t have a close relationship. That wasn’t his fault. It wasn’t my fault. I didn’t hate him. He didn’t hate me. He was quiet, and I am loud and opinionated. He didn’t like being the center of attention, and I work in entertainment. We had a common love: my Mom, his wife. And we had respect for each other, but that was something that grew with time.

Here we are as a family at the Grand Canyon.

Here we are as a family at the Grand Canyon.

He came into my life when I was around ten. I still had memories of my real “Dad.” My little sister Jamaica didn’t. She took to Baber much quicker than I did. He had to deal with the horrible teen years of me leaving a room and saying, “Bye Mom, Bye Jamaica,” and then closing the door without saying bye to him. I’m sure he felt uncomfortable or pissed or some sort of disrespect when I did shit like that, but he never expressed it.

Here I am being an annoying teenager, making a face during one of our family trips.

Here I am being an annoying teenager, making a face during one of our family trips.

His ability to not bring down others is something I grew to admire, especially in his two-year battle with cancer. He never once complained, even after he had surgery, was confined to a hospital bed, lost his ability to walk without assistance, because the surgeons removed several inches of bone from his leg. And eventually when the cancer returned he still didn’t want to burden anyone with a peep of depression or anxiety. He never once took a painkiller. He never once complained that life was unfair. He never once asked, “why me?” Anyone would have understood if he did any of those things, especially because he pretty much went his whole life without illness. Even when my Mom bought him a bell to ring in case she wasn’t in his vicinity and he needed help with something, he only used it once. I’m sure my smart-ass would’ve rang it at least once as a joke, but he was much stronger than that.

As I mentioned, you couldn’t have met two people who were more complete opposites than us. The one thing we did have in common was sports. He worked for the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club for nearly four decades. Horseracing became a huge part of my life when he became a part of my life. He worked at the starting gate every summer during the Del Mar race meet. My Mom took us every Friday to the races. She would place $2 bets for my sister and me, and we would watch the races and she would watch Baber at the starting gate. We would all wave and he would sheepishly wave back. I’m sure his friends would tease him, because none of their families were there waving at them. I frequently talk about how I grew up in comedy clubs. The other place was at the racetrack.

Baber to the left standing where he used to stand for nearly four decades.

In retirement, Baber still made time to visit the racetrack. It was probably odd for him to be in the stands, so he always made his rounds to his old stomping grounds to visit his friends. In 2012, he took me down to the starting gate where he used to stand for nearly four decades. That’s his head to the left.

I didn’t realize it at the time, and I don’t even know if he realized it, but he had an impact in me becoming a writer. When I was 11 or 12 he signed me up for a subscription to Sports Illustrated. That’s where I discovered a writer named Rick Reilly who showed me that I could make a living writing about sports. Six years later, when I turned 18 I started making a living as a sportswriter. I still have the subscription to Sports Illustrated because he renewed it every single year without saying anything to me. I never understood why he initially bought me that as a Christmas gift, but I’m glad he did, because sports writing led to comedy and TV. I don’t know how else I would’ve discovered my passion and ability to write.

I always wondered how I would react when he passed away. I didn’t know if I would cry. I’m not a super emotional person. I didn’t know how involved I would be in the burial. After all he did have his own kids too. I didn’t know if my family would expect me to talk at his funeral, because after all, I am the one who is good with words. To me, many things were up in the air, especially since I had never gone through this before.

Zoe and I drove down to San Diego a couple hours after I got the news. We met my crying family on the balcony of my childhood home. That was only the third time I ever saw my Mom cry. The first time was when she told me she was divorcing my real “Dad.” That was on the balcony of the same house when I was six. The second time was when I was around 18 years old when she told me she had breast cancer. This third time was especially rough, because I knew she wasn’t just crying about him dying, but also because her breast cancer just came back about two weeks ago. It was the first time I saw her cry in front of a group of people. My Grandma, Grandpa, sister, and girlfriend were all there this time. The other times it was just she and I.

Any question I had about my involvement in his arrangements for the afterlife went out the door when I saw my Mom crying. It’s an unbearable feeling when you see a parent cry. They’re not the ones that do that. They’re the ones who comfort you when you’re crying. I told her I would go with her to anything she needed help with.

Because of the holiday, July 5 was the first day she would have to start getting things in order. I had been to Eternal Hills Mortuary in Oceanside numerous times. Baber’s parents are buried there. His brother is buried there. My Grandpa’s Mom is buried there. My cousins are buried there. Our families have a lot of real estate there. I had never been there for someone I really knew well though. Baber was the closest person in relation to me who has died. For God’s sake, I had only been to two funerals before. Once for my great Aunt Antonia when I was really young and another time for comedian Marilyn Martinez.

July 15 was the day of the burial. I was overwhelmed by how many people showed up to the cemetery. There were at least 200 people. There would have been more, but not all of his former co-workers could make it since the next day was opening day at the Del Mar Racetrack. My Mom totally understood since she remembers Baber’s schedule between mid-July to the beginning of September each year. I think it’s a pretty common thought to wonder how many people will be at your own funeral. I don’t know if he had those thoughts, but I’m sure he would’ve been embarrassed to know so many people showed up, because he never liked the spotlight. It really was a testament to how many people loved him when he was alive. The one thing I am sure he would’ve loved was the people wearing Chargers hats and jerseys. I feel like he was always wearing either a Chargers shirt or hat for most of his life.

Just like him, my Mom is also someone who doesn’t like the spotlight, so my sister and I made attempts to be with her while hundreds kept offering their condolences. We cried a lot. Most people were bawling during two parts in particular, when one of his oldest friends Al shared an anecdote of how Baber went to Hawaii with him to help him pursue his eventual wife. The other time people felt connected and a bit more comforting amidst tears was when his longtime friend Junior had his daughter Susan read a letter about Baber cruising in his GTO’s, tailgating at Chargers games, and hitting the Indian casinos every weekend.

I made this memorial card that we handed out at the funeral.

I made this memorial card that we handed out at the funeral.

I think I cried more, however, when we actually picked out the burial spot 10 days prior. That was more real to me than anything. That day was a bit more intimate and cryptic, because it was selecting where his final resting spot was going to be, and eventually my Mom’s final spot too. I never had to go through the burial process before, and it’s horrible for many reasons but none more so because it forces you to realize your own mortality.

Here's one of the pictures his daughter April made for the funeral. The lei was appropriate given his love for Hawaii.

Here’s one of the pictures his daughter April made for the funeral. The lei was appropriate given his love for Hawaii.

Over the past couple months it wasn’t all sadness though. Zoe got to meet him and understand my childhood and see the full family dynamic for a few months. I got to jokingly take Baber’s side a few more times when my Mom would complain that he could never give her a straight answer about what he wanted when she would present him options on anything. He was so agreeable and a go-with-the-flow person that he was always happy with whatever my Mom wanted, and that would get on her nerves sometimes, so I’d see that as an opportunity to make fun of her on his behalf. After I was done it would always leave the two of them laughing at each other.

This is the last picture we took with Baber. He got really sick after this. I don't even know if he knew that he was in the picture, because it was on Mother's Day. It's not the greatest picture of me, Zoe, and my Mom but we are glad we have it.

This is the last picture we took with Baber. He got really sick after this. I don’t even know if he knew that he was in the picture, because it was on Mother’s Day. It’s not the greatest picture of me, Zoe, and my Mom but we are glad we have it.

This picture is simply for my Mom and Zoe since we all look better in this one.

This picture is simply for my Mom and Zoe since we all look better in this one.

Over the final two months we also shared a lot of stories, laughed a lot about some of his tendencies, and reminisced about the time Baber did this…like how he couldn’t handle rides at amusement parks, but he would take Jamaica on them when she was little; how he would eat only half of pretty much any food, except beans which he hated; how he would take the coast for the view of the ocean instead of the freeway if both routes could take you somewhere; how he would take forever in the lone bathroom in the house to get ready in the morning while the rest of us would be pounding on the door for him to hurry up; and how for every Chargers home game he was first in line at the entrance to Qualcomm Stadium to get in to the parking lot.

This is one of my favorite pictures I have. It's from the starting gate. Baber took me down to the turf right before one of the races during the 2012 meet. For him it was nothing, because he spent nearly four decades in that spot, but for me it was a real treat to standing between those gates.

This is one of my favorite pictures I have. It’s from the starting gate. Baber took me down to the turf right before one of the races during the 2012 meet. For him it was nothing, because he spent nearly four decades in that spot, but for me it was a real treat to standing between those gates.

I remember life before Baber, life with him, and now life without him. Life before him was rough. I was young, but I remember how trying it was for my Mom. He made her a happier person, which trickled down to Jamaica and me. The last day I saw him was on Father’s Day and the last words I said to him were, “Happy Father’s Day.” He was in bed and hunched over to one side with not enough energy to lift himself up. He replied “Thank you,” and gave me a look that we both knew it was going to be the last time we spoke. We didn’t need to say more, because we both knew that was not going to be our lasting memory of each other. Life with him is what I will remember.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

#41 – Move In with My Girlfriend…On Purpose

When I love something, I recognize it immediately, and I go all in.

That’s why I am capable of eating Chipotle seven days a week.

That’s why I used to go to Las Vegas every other week.

And that’s why after dating my girlfriend Zoe after just four months we decided to move in together.

No, I am not comparing my girlfriend to Chipotle and Vegas, but she loves both things too, so I am sure she wouldn’t mind if I did.

My favorite picture of us...of course it's in Vegas.

My favorite picture of us…of course it’s in Vegas.

And yes, it sounds crazy that I’d move in with a girl after just four months, especially when you consider I typically don’t show a girl where I live until after three months.

So, this is the first time I’ve lived with a girlfriend…on purpose. Other times, they kind of just moved in because of proximity to their work and I didn’t even realize it until they had my spare key and were no longer calling me to let them in the front door of my building.

Since the first of the year I basically stayed at Zoe’s place in Sherman Oaks every night. I hate the Valley. I lived there for six years and moved into Hollywood for the past two years so that I could be closer to the studios and comedy clubs. Zoe’s living situation with a roommate was becoming less than ideal for her, and I was getting tired of feeling like I no longer had a home since I would go days and often weeks without seeing my apartment. That’s fine when I was on the road a lot, but when I’m in Los Angeles I want to feel like I have a place.

So we came to the conclusion that we should find a new place together. Neither of us is conventional. We both do things to the beat of our own Pandora stations. And we both knew the other person was in the relationship till death do us part. So why go through the typical BS of societal dating standards? It doesn’t work out for most people who follow that route anyways.

Zoe puts up with this type of behavior, so what else can I ask for?

Zoe puts up with this type of behavior, so what else can I ask for?

We knew people would probably think we were crazy. But we were ready for that. When we began telling people, to our surprise, no one thought we should be looking for a place together in a mental institution. Everyone actually thought it was a good idea. I guess they probably saw that we do everything together anyways, so it made sense.

Although, she has been known to make faces behind my back as well.

Although, she has been known to make faces behind my back as well.

My family loves Zoe and her family loves me. Before her, I never introduced a girlfriend to my family, because whomever I was dating always gave me slight hesitancy in thinking that I was in a temporary relationship and I never wanted to introduce something temporary to something permanent like family. Zoe had introduced several boyfriends to her family, but according to her family I’m the first one they’ve actually liked. So with so much support we were further entrusted in thinking we made the right choice.

Zoe and me with my Mom on Mother's Day.

Zoe and me with my Mom on Mother’s Day.

We chose the first place we visited because we knew exactly where we wanted to live. I lived off Hollywood & Gower and from the day I moved in there was a new apartment complex being built just one block west called EastownLA. The day the complex started showing apartments to be leased, I attempted to take a tour. When they told me the price of the least expensive apartment, I turned around immediately. Zoe has a similar story of wanting to live in the complex that became OURS.

We both make good money. In fact, I don’t know how my poop and fart jokes compensate me so well. But we are both extreme individuals and have got used to paying rent on our own without the help of a significant other, so before we knew each other we both didn’t think it would be smart at that time to move in to a place with such a large financial ceiling.

Our leasing guy showed us several different style units around the complex. Our non-negotiables were a balcony and a lot of closet space. We were hoping for two parking spots and a washer/dryer in the unit as well. Realistically we were sold on the complex the moment we saw the gym and how it offered more equipment and features than 24 Hour Fitness. Then we saw the pool and Jacuzzi, which rivals the W Hotel and offers weekly pool parties with alcohol, food, and live DJ’s for the residents. The other amenities like fire pits and stainless steel barbecues sprinkled throughout the complex’s four buildings are just an added bonus.

The leasing guy showed us several units with different layouts that included our non-negotiables. With the complex only at 50 percent occupancy we had a lot of options to choose from. But for various reasons we didn’t like any of them. Then he showed us OUR apartment.

We aren't done decorating, but it's a nice start.

We aren’t done decorating, but it’s a nice start.

It’s perfect. It has a large balcony with one side that overlooks the pool while the other side overlooks Hollywood Boulevard. The light just pours in from floor to ceiling windows. There’s a walk-in closet, which to my surprise fit all of our stuff in since after all Zoe is a girl. The bathroom is huge. There’s a washer/dryer. All the appliances are brand new. No one has ever lived in the apartment before. And to top it off, the complex threw in free rent for a month.

The view from our balcony.

The view from our balcony.

Just to be sure, we looked at complex’s we figured would be comparable in the area like the Hollywood Tower and Sunset & Vine, but those places were just as expensive and didn’t have anywhere near the space that OUR place offers, plus those buildings are old and didn’t have the amenities either.

I kind of don’t believe I live where I live. After a few weeks now, it feels like a home now that we’ve framed our pictures, bought a couch and organized the furniture.

The one thing that doesn’t escape me is that there’s definitely a type of person who has the lifestyle that fits a building like OURS. There are probably a total of four units leased to families with kids. There’s also A LOT of white people. I’ve seen one black person, one Asian person, and for the first week I was afraid the cleaning staff was going to tell me to get back to doing the yard work.

This was only the third time I’ve moved in my life. Zoe has moved considerably more times than that. Nothing about the move has been discomforting. Four months seems really quick, but both of us could’ve made the move after the first weekend we met. It is easily one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, because I love Chipotle…err I mean Zoe 🙂

We took a "selfie" the first night we met each other.

We took a “selfie” the first night we met each other.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

33 – Quit a TV Show

I’m now working on the TV show “Let’s Make A Deal.” Three weeks ago I was working on a different show.

I thought that other show was going to be the perfect 4-month gig. It is hosted by one of the nicest comedians I know, on a major studio lot, for a three-letter network.

One month into the gig I quit because…

The following blog has been interrupted by Joshua’s common sense. He signed a non-disclosure agreement prior to working on said show and under no circumstances does he want his bank account negatively affected with the threat of a lawsuit by said company.

Prior to this, I only quit one gig in my career, and that was after 13 months at the Los Angeles Times. When I quit that place I knew I no longer wanted to be a full-time journalist. Back then I didn’t have another gig to move on to. I just knew I couldn’t waste any more time there, so I left. And I left in a boisterous fashion, with an e-mail to the entire Tribune company where I admonished the assholes and celebrated the scholars.

I don’t think I can get in trouble by simply talking about me, so here goes…

I didn’t want to quit. I loved the people I worked with. That happens when you spend an abhorrent number of hours a week with the same people. (I’d tell you the actual number of hours, but I’m sure that would get me in trouble.) From the host to the production assistants, they are some of the most genuine people I’ve worked with in TV. The only people I didn’t enjoy working with were…

Once again, the following blog has been interrupted by the lawyers inside Josh’s head. We are simply trying to keep him out of trouble. We apologize for the lack of typically fascinating content in this blog. We promise it won’t happen again, unless of course Josh makes another bad career decision.

For years, colleagues told me that talk shows are the most difficult TV shows to produce. I always thought they were bull-shitting me. They weren’t. I’ve done comedies, animation, game shows, talking head shows, competition shows, and many others. Combined, they don’t compare in terms of difficulty and stress.

I was good at the job. But I wasn’t happy. I was falling asleep on my car drive to work. When I got out of work at 1am I’d pound five beers before the bars would close. I was stress-eating and gained at least five pounds. It was the first time working in entertainment that I wasn’t happy. I chose this business for a reason; I didn’t want to be miserable if I was going to put long hours into a job like I’ve seen so many people do.

Working hard or hardly working? Clearly working hard.

Working hard or hardly working? Clearly working hard.

I really didn’t know how to quit. I didn’t want to leave my co-workers in a bind, because I genuinely liked them and went to battle with them. I gave some of them warning before I made my final decision, and they all told me that if I had something else to move on to then I deserved to make the move. That’s all I needed to hear. I rarely care what others think of me (see my full disclosure in past entries of this blog), but I did care what this batch of co-workers thought of me. Since leaving, my mind has been put at ease. I still talk to most of them and they treat me like I never left.

In the past, I’ve given up important things for my career, like relationships, friendships, and sanity, but this was the first time it didn’t feel worth it, because I was unhappy. I think people tend to forget that they are in control of their own happiness. Yes, others can have a huge impact on your emotions, but ultimately you are in control of whom you choose to be around. I didn’t want to be unhappy anymore, so I did something about it.

This is what my breaking point looks like.

This is what my breaking point looks like.

Besides growing up in the entertainment world, I’ve been doing this “writing” thing for nine years, and working in TV for six years. If this was three years ago, there is no way in “heaven” I would’ve quit a television job. Back then I didn’t know where the next gig was going to come from and how long it would take to find it. To a certain extent, I still don’t know where the next gig is coming from, but I’m now secure with where I am in my career. I am a machine. I can handle anything. I could have handled this for another three months, but I didn’t need to, which is a nice place to be.

The most positive thing to surface from quitting is that I now realize my self-worth, and that is a dangerous thing for those who want to compete with me.

*Side Note: The only other time I was forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement was when Girls Gone Wild was going to hire me to be a Casting Director. That story, ladies and gentlemen, is a tale for another day.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

#32 – Cover NHL Game

I didn’t know someone was listening when I said, “You’d have to pay me to watch an NHL game.”

Last Monday, I woke up to a message from Jon, an old sportswriter friend I started with in San Diego. He asked if I was interested in covering the San Jose Sharks take on the Anaheim Ducks later that night.

Before I became a “clown” who spends nights in comedy clubs and works on TV shows, I was a full-time journalist for five years and spent my nights in press boxes and newsrooms. I worked for outlets like the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune.

A few months ago I went out to support Jon doing stand-up comedy. I think it was like his second or third time ever on stage, so I felt a need to support, since our careers were crossing over. That night I mentioned to Jon that I was looking to pick up some sports free-lancing opportunities, because I missed it. He’s one of the few sportswriters I started with who has actually built up a nice career out of it.

Never mind the fact that I had a hangover. Never mind the fact that the last athletic event I covered was in 2009. Never mind the fact that I had only ever been to one hockey game in my life. Never mind any of those things, because I didn’t know the next time I’d get an opportunity like it.

“I’m way down,” I told Jon. Fact is, writing about sports is my first love. Don’t tell my entertainment career that I still look fondly back on that time of my life. Your current lady doesn’t want to hear about your exes. I enjoy watching sports more now, but writing about them produces a feeling I have yet to find doing anything else.

The first thing I ever got paid to write about was a baseball game between La Costa Canyon high school and Fallbrook high school for the U-T. I was 18 years old, and barely out of high school myself. I was frightened. I knew a lot about sports, but I didn’t know a damn thing about writing. Next week will be my nine year anniversary of becoming a writer, and I barely feel like I’ve found my voice.

Legendary Dodgers player Duke Snider was at that baseball game because he lived in the Fallbrook, CA area and frequented the high school’s games. He must’ve realized my nerves because midway through the game he approached and said, “you’re new, huh?” I knew who he was, and just like those early days in my writing career, I couldn’t find the right words to say. So, he said, “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine.”

Duke was right, but not when it came to journalism. If it were entirely up to me I would’ve been a sports journalist my entire life, but I quit the journalism field full-time in 2008, because opportunities to work in entertainment kept being presented to me, and I quickly realized how spectacular I am on a production set. I am not being modest there for a reason.

I showed up to the Honda Center Arena about two and a half hours early, just in case there was a problem with my press credentials. My mind is exhausted with terror thinking about every possible scenario that can go wrong, and once I realize the horrible outcomes aren’t so bad I get down to business. That goes for every scenario in my life, not just sports writing. It also explains how frightening it is to spend time in my conscious.

I pulled up to the press parking lot, stated my last name, and they thought I was Curt Sandoval from ABC7 in Los Angeles.

No relation.

No relation. Bet you couldn’t tell.

“Curt does TV. Does this look like a face for TV?” I joked with the parking attendant. “Joshua is my first name.”

“Well, I wouldn’t boot you out of bed,” said the cute parking attendant.

“Wait, what?” is all I had in my head. If I didn’t have a million thoughts wondering how I was going to get through the next few hours pretending to be proficient in hockey then I probably would’ve flirted with her and got her phone number. But just like usual, my career always takes precedence over females.

“I don’t have you on the list, but I’ll take care of you,” she told me as she placed a parking pass on my car’s windshield. “Go right ahead.”

When I arrived at the media check-in table inside the arena, the kind gentleman dolling out credentials directed me downstairs to the media room where a buffet was being served.

No autographs? No one is gonna want my autograph. Oh, you mean I can ask players for autographs? I don't think we will have a problem there, unless Kobe Bryant or Albert Pujols decides to lace up some skates.

“No autographs?” No one is gonna want my autograph. Oh, you mean I can’t ask players for autographs? I don’t think we will have a problem there, unless the Ducks just acquired Kobe Bryant or Albert Pujols.

After indulging in pork chops, macaroni and cheese, green beans, bread rolls, ice cream bars, churros, M&M’s, popcorn, and sodas I ventured upstairs to the press box with an eventual upset stomach and about an hour to kill before puck drop.

I checked my name on the board to see where my assigned seat was located. You non-sports writers are probably questioning the elementary school treatment. Well, sports writers are kind of like children, and it would be straight chaos if there wasn’t assigned seating. Grown people who make a living talking about games have more in common with the typical pre-teen than you’d think. To prove that point, just re-read all the junk food I ate.

Damn, it's not hand-written. Guess I can't switch seats.

Damn, it’s not hand-written. Guess I can’t switch seats.

When I saw my crappy seat assignment compared to some of the star reporters like my ex-colleagues at The Times, Helene Elliott and Lance Pugmire, I immediately made comparison to my new world and thought of the unspoken parking lot caste system on studio lots. On studio lots you can tell a lot about what executives think of you based on where you are told to park your car for your meeting.

Regardless, I was in the box and in the building. I grabbed some popcorn, soda, and a cookie and got comfy against the glass. Don’t judge, free food is free food. I then conducted some last minute research and went over the game notes given out by the Ducks sports information department. In between, I attempted to create conversation with some of my colleagues, but they quickly reminded me that sports writers can be curmudgeons in their own little world. I was probably like them at one point during my five-year run where it’s hard to differentiate one game from the next and one day from the next. Monday night, however, transformed me from a 27-year-old 150-pound “clown” back into that 18-year-old 250-pound pudgy ball of nervous excitement. I was getting paid to watch and write about sports…HA!

Despite my bitching, not too shabby of a view.

Despite my bitching, not too shabby of a view.

It didn’t take long for me to get back into sports writer mode. Over the past few years I kept my journalistic mind fresh by doing free-lance entertainment reporting for The Times, U-T, and Men’s Fitness Magazine, but sports writing is a different “story,” don’t pardon the pun. The puck dropped and my mind didn’t stop trying to process everything on the ice until the moment after the final buzzer sounded. After a fight erupted within the first three minutes I immediately wished I would’ve covered a hockey game much earlier in my career.

In between the first and second period I started working on my story. You’re probably not aware of this, but sports writers are writing throughout the game in order to make deadline. I contend that the 18-minute respites in between periods weren’t put in place for players to regain their breath, but rather so journalists could work toward their words quota.

The moment I began to write under deadline, I experienced that high that I lived for in my past. It’s hard to describe. It’s a better high than any drug or substance can create. It’s a natural high that takes me to a different world. I think everyone has a unique way of experiencing that feeling. I think it’s a feeling that you only get when you’re doing something that you really, truly, purely love. I don’t know if it’s as repeatable in other forms as it is in journalism, but I hope you have something like it. Words move from my mind and on to my computer screen quite easily. Adrenaline pumps through my body, nothing else in the world matters, and it’s like I don’t even exist. I think I’ve been chasing that same high since that day back in Fallbrook when I was 18. It’s never quite the same after the first experience, but last Monday came pretty damn close. It takes trying something new to feel that way again.

I get a different kind of high working in TV. In journalism, the high for me is more extreme because the deadline is so much tighter. In TV, the deadline can take place over hours, weeks, or months; and it’s scripted. Covering a game is unpredictable. For example, I couldn’t have guessed that the Ducks were going to score three goals in a three-minute time span in the second period, which forced me to stop and change sentences in my story multiple times.

The Ducks ended up winning 5-3. I was the rotten egg in the elevator down to the locker rooms to conduct interviews, which as the last person in meant I would be first one out the box. On the long ride down I did my best to not shatter the awkward silence of 15 journalists. I fancy a joke to break up awkward situations like 15 people facing one direction in a steel box, but I simply wondered what was going through all of their minds. How many of them were happy? How many of them wanted to be there? Did any of them see me take the last chocolate chip cookie in the press box?

I stepped out the elevator and since it was my first time in this arena I allowed another journalist to lead the creative cavalcade toward the locker rooms. I ended up in the San Jose Sharks locker room first, because unbeknownst to me I was following a Sharks beat writer.

This is Joe Thornton of the Sharks. I think it captures the agony of defeat pretty well.

This is Joe Thornton of the Sharks. I think it captures the agony of defeat pretty well.

My least favorite part about being a sports writer was always the post-game interviews because I don’t enjoy the smell of sweat, hence why I’m a writer and not a construction worker. That sweat smell isn’t sweet and it hit me the moment the locker room doors opened. If I weren’t prepared for it I probably would have been physically knocked over.

In comparison, this is Emerson Etem holding the puck from his first ever goal in the NHL that night. I think this captures the happiness of victory.

In comparison, this is Emerson Etem holding the puck from his first ever goal in the NHL that night. I think this captures the happiness of victory.

After interviews were over I jolted back to the press box, finished writing my story, inserted some quotes, and was out the building by 11pm.

I actually fit in way better than I anticipated. The only time I looked or felt out of place was when it came to finding my way around the arena. I also probably should’ve mentioned in my article about the Ducks announcing during the game the contract extension they gave their star player Corey Perry. That was my biggest NHL rookie mistake. If it was my beat I would have known that was a significant thing to mention.

I compare covering hockey to when I speak Spanish. I am fluent in Spanish, but I rarely use it. When I do speak it I don’t talk as fast as I would in English. That’s how I feel about my capabilities when it comes to hockey. I speak MLB, NFL, and NBA, but I am fluent in NHL even though I rarely use it. Make sense?

I had a blast covering the game. It allowed me to revisit my past with an aspect I never got to experience before. I’m not leaving the entertainment and TV worlds any time soon, but I do want to revisit my journalism roots more often.

Anyways, here’s a link to the article if you’re interested in checking it out. I’m actually impressed that I was even able to incorporate some hockey lingo into my vernacular. Click here for the article on Yahoo!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

#30 – Shoot Vlog With A Celebrity

It’s a writer’s job to tell a story by painting a scene of events with his words. I’m still having difficulty finding the right words to describe what happened to Trevor and me last Saturday when one of the biggest musical artists in the world gave our Displeasure Vlog his endorsement.

For the most part, Trevor and I get along pretty well. Every once in a while, however, we get frustrated with one another, and aren’t really productive in our business that we need to conduct. That’s natural for any business partnership and friendship.

Saturday was one of those days. Because of my new gig on America’s Got Talent, my free time and flexible schedule has changed dramatically. The combination of re-adjusting to an office job and the past nine months of hustling has resulted in pure exhaustion. On Saturday we set out to shoot some vlog entries for the upcoming week, and my brain just wouldn’t kick start into joke-writing mode. When we tried to shoot a video in a parking lot we were hassled by two Paul Blart’s. Then when we tried to shoot a video inside K-Mart we were kicked out. Things were not going well, and we were pissed at each other on the only day of the week we entirely have free

Hunger set in, so we decided to temporarily scrap the shoot and find some food to eat. Trevor just started driving as we sat in silence, and we ended up back at his house. Pissed off that he didn’t tell me what his plans were, I called him out for not telling me that we were heading back to pick up his brother Tanner and then go eat. I was under the assumption we were going to write jokes for the Vlog while we ate. He could’ve told me we were on our way to free lobster dinners and I likely would’ve had a problem with it. The same goes for anything I said, just because of the back and forth petty bullshit we had been going through.

After another 20 minutes of nonsense discussion in his garage we finally went inside and kicked back for a minute before heading out to Souplantation. (If you’ve never been, stop reading now and go to Soupy P’s. I’ll understand.) I hopped in the backseat and Tanner jumped in the front seat. As we cruised down Melrose toward La Cienega Tanner broke the silence in the car when he calmly stated, “Kat Von D and Deadmau5 were just cruising down the street back there.”

With those simple words, Trevor and I got into work mode. Whatever disagreement we were having we immediately put to the side. No matter how much we couldn’t stand to be next to one another just five seconds prior, we realized what we needed to do.

Trevor’s natural reaction as a former TMZ paparazzo is to flip a bitch when someone shouts a celebrity’s name. He quickly recognized Kat Von D’s car, and pulled up right behind it. His camera was sitting on a tripod next to me because of our prior attempt at shooting, however, he didn’t have his flash. To get the equipment from his house across the street he played Frogger in the street, and dashed back through traffic to return 1 minute later. Upon his return I suggested to him, “fuck the short term money of selling pictures, let’s ask them to shoot a Vlog with us.”

Trevor’s eyes lit up, and immediately got to thinking about which topic we could discuss. I spent the prior 4 hours bitching about how tired I was and how I couldn’t muster up the energy to properly form thoughts. Realizing that we were about to ask the most famous DJ and the most famous tattoo artist in the world to help us out of the goodness of their heart gave me a shot of adrenaline, and sparked Trevor to say, “When your friends think they’re a DJ.”

Bam! That’s something that really bugs both of us. The new trend of everyone trying to be a DJ is annoying, because there are very few people who professionally make a living off of that, and even those guys are simply just making money because they mix songs created by SOMEONE ELSE! Deadmau5 on the other hand is actually a music producer, and doesn’t just mix other people’s songs.

Trevor provided the topic, and wrote his first line, which is what I asked of him hour’s prior, so that my limited free time is maximized. He said he couldn’t provide a starting point without my help. I calmly pointed out to him that this was proof that he could. I guess all we needed was to be put in a situation where we had no choice but to come up with gold. I then came up with my line, and told him we needed to acknowledge Deadmau5 after each of our lines, differentiating him between the people who call themselves DJ’s and someone who actually is one, like him.

Meanwhile, paparazzi started to notice Trevor standing on Melrose. Despite his absence from the scene for quite some time, they still played a hunch that he was waiting for someone to come out of Vivian Westwood. Trevor played it off to his former paparazzo amigos that we were just chillin’ on the street, waiting for a friend. The paparazzi eventually moved on.

I could see the anxiety build in Trevor’s body while we waited for their exit out the store. I got into “Coach” mode and pulled out a pep talk for him. I reminded him that he has created contacts with billionaires like Mark Cuban, super producers like Brian Grazer, and other people of equal stature to Deadmau5 and Kat. I put him at ease by reminding him that we talk to musicians and tattoo artists all the time. The only difference is that Deadmau5 and Kat have fame. Simply put, I was lying my ass off, because I was equally nervous. But in the hours prior Trevor kept reminding me that he feeds off my energy, so when I am in a shitty mood he tends to be as well, hence why we weren’t productive earlier in the day. I had to be positive and provide a calm demeanor.

Tanner gave us some background on Deadmau5 recently making comments about how he dislikes how everyone is claiming to be a DJ now, which made us feel more comfortable about approaching him with the topic. Trevor and I can relate to his sentiments, because Trevor despises how anyone with an iPhone thinks he’s a cameraman, and I despise how everyone with a blog thinks they’re a writer. We’ve made a living off those professions, just like Deadmau5 makes his living off his profession.

“Here they come,” I told Trevor as he picked his camera up off the ground.

“Hey Kat and Deadmau5, as a former paparazzo I just shooed away the paparazzi for you guys to make a clean escape.”

“Thanks so much,” Kat replied first.

“I have one question for you guys though. We have a blog about things that bug us and one of the things that bugs us is how everyone thinks they’re a DJ now,” Trevor said.

“Deadmau5, would you be willing to go on camera with us for it?” I asked.

“Let me answer that for him,” Kat said.

“Of course I will,” Deadmau5 responded.

Wait, what? That was way too easy. Tanner later brought up the fact that other than reminding Kat that I did LA Ink, we didn’t even have to drop any of our creds on them. We wondered who they thought we were. I think he agreed to shoot, because it was a topic he has gone on record saying that displeases him. Also, we look like them. We are tatted up, young, and look like “misfits” of society. I also hope that they admired our gumption.

Kat grabbed her bags, started packing up her car, and told us to make it quick. We knew we pretty much just had one take to make it happen, since I imagine they have busy schedules, but her statement reaffirmed that. You can see her in the background of the video.

The moment Deadmau5 agreed to shoot, I think Trevor and I both blacked out. The last thing I remember was Trevor telling me to move to the right side of Deadmau5, because in our videos Trevor always stands to my left and I stand to his right.

Trevor and I are in motion before Deadmau5 changes his mind.

We also generally do at least 5 takes on every vlog. The only time we did one take was when we were drunk and our buddy Andrew was sleeping, because once he woke up we knew the take was going to be done. We killed it in that vlog, and I think we killed it in this vlog. You be the judge.

I am glad, however, that Trevor and I started the Displeasure Vlog so that we can retrace what happened, because sometimes words can’t simply do justice to a story. Sometimes, just sometimes, pictures are worth more than 1,524 words.

Speechless

The Displeasure Vlog with Deadmau5 can be viewed here.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

#28 – Film Cooking Show with a Celebrity

(The title of this blog pretty much serves as the introduction to this video and this blog. Regardless, the intro to the blog is below.)

I think I’m a good writer. I also think I’m a bad writer. It comes with the territory.

Regardless, I have worked on some things that have been presented to audiences of millions in the form of TV shows and journalistic articles. The coolness of that will never be lost on me. With that said, that means diddlysquat to me.

The same can be said for my buddy and producing partner Trevor Wayne who worked for TMZ for three years. Producing for other people is fun, and we are grateful for those opportunities, however, that is for OTHER PEOPLE. Over the past four years we have been on a mission to pitch, sell, and produce OUR OWN TV show.

Our goal is the first thought in our mind when we wake and it’s the last thought before our brain flips the off switch. We have developed concepts, written treatments, shot sizzle reels, taken pitch meetings at production companies, and met with executives at networks and agencies. We are the definition of determination. The only thing we haven’t done is shoot our own pilot. So, in early August that’s exactly what we did.

This was one of the crazy stunts we did to get a pitch meeting at Imagine Entertainment. We delivered these cardboard cutouts of ourselves to serve as our representatives. I don’t think you need any further proof to realize how hard we’ve worked over the past 4 years.

Over the past few years we avoided shooting a pilot for three reasons: high cost, no free time, and a lack of a crew to call upon. Finally this year we came into some money, created a flexible schedule, and nurtured friendships with people who believe in us and want to help.

When Trevor left his job at TMZ earlier this year we examined our ideas to see which one would be most feasible to shoot. Our passion project is Shooting Stars, a reality show based on Trevor and his crew of twenty-something year old friends trying to make it in Hollywood.

The sizzle reel we shot for that garnered enough interest from the likes of Mark Cuban and Brian Grazer who requested to see more from us. The reason we didn’t shoot a pilot for that, however, was because the expected cost of production was beyond our means.

One of our ideas, however, fell right in line with our capabilities. Exclusive Eats is a cooking show with Trevor as the host, where celebrities will invite him into their homes to cook their favorite meals while Trevor interviews them on their turf rather than in the streets like he has in the past.

Given that Trevor and I eat most of our meals at restaurants I couldn’t ignore the irony that our first pilot shoot was going to be a cooking show in his kitchen.

One of the promotional shots I took of Trevor before we decided to shoot a pilot.

We had the necessary equipment, and a well-established crew of professionals ready to make the show happen. All we needed was a celebrity. We grew with frustration after a few weeks of celebrities agreeing to shoot and then having to cancel or giving us a date too far in the future. I’m impatient to begin with, but when things don’t go my way I am downright brutal to be around. It’s unbearable to know that you’re only missing one component of a puzzle piece.

We ran dry with our celebrity contacts, but fortunately Trevor’s brother Tanner has a wealth of well-known friends because of his roots in the music industry. Tanner is an epic drummer who has worked with numerous artists, including currently with Sky Blu of LMFAO. Tanner reached out to his friend Bert McCracken, the lead singer of The Used, and he agreed to shoot with us.

On Saturday August 11 Bert said he was free on Sunday August 12, but didn’t give us a set time. He also said he didn’t want to shoot in his home. I didn’t blame him, because the atmosphere of a set can be messy, chaotic, and not something you generally want to bring into the tranquility of your home. That’s something Bert likely knew from having appeared on The Osbournes while dating Kelly Osbourne. Bert also asked if we could pick him up and bring him to Trevor’s where we decided we would shoot. Neither of those were unreasonable requests given the enormous favor he was granting us.

Essentially we had to be on call whenever he was ready. That was not the most comforting situation to be placed in because I’m used to call times with a shoot schedule. I thrive with organization.

One day this will be the cover of my cooking book, “Breadsticks Over Nightsticks.”

It’s not like we could tell Bert to give us an exact time, because after all he was doing us a huge favor. In addition, I spent the week’s prior telling Trevor that all I needed was a celebrity and I could produce magic. Tanner provided the celebrity, so I needed to hold up my end and produce the necessary footage regardless of the circumstances I was given.

Among other discomforting things thrown at us was our mad scramble to find a cameraman. The main problem with putting Trevor in front of the camera as often as we do is that he can’t also hold the camera. Fortunately we have a legit camera guy who has filmed movies like Fast & Furious and Mission Impossible III. Unfortunately for us, he was busy that day. Our buddy Brandon said he would do it, and he was a more than a suitable choice on 24 hours notice.

Brandon stepped up to the camera big time. Look at that form.

I arrived at Trevor’s house at 10am with Bert’s arrival still in question. The first and last time we heard from him was the night before the shoot when he texted Tanner the ingredients he needed to make cioppino. We held off on buying the product just in case an unforeseen circumstance arose and Bert wasn’t able to shoot.

I almost wanted Bert to hit us up and cancel the shoot, because I didn’t feel we were ready. It was what I like to call the “Impostor Syndrome” kicking in. Before I do anything hugely important that I am supposed to be good at, like writing, producing, or sex, I get nervous that I won’t be able to deliver the goods. After a moment of self-doubt I remember that I am good at those things and then rise to the occasion. It’s got to the point where if I don’t get that feeling from the “Impostor Syndrome” then I begin to worry, because it means I am about to do something that I don’t really care about.

At around 2pm we got a text from Tanner that Bert was ready, so Trevor went to Pasadena to get him and I went to Ralphs. With that text my nervous feelings disappeared. Before Trevor left, however, I noticed that he too felt we weren’t ready, because he started to have an anxiety attack in the form of shooting off a million questions in panic at me. Before I could answer his first concern he had three more to follow. I simply told him, “Go pick up Bert and we will find a way to make this happen.” That probably wasn’t the most comforting thing to hear when he wanted a definitive solution to ease his uncertainty, but the lack of time only allowed that response.

I despise grocery shopping. I don’t like anywhere with lines and my lack of patience makes searching for specific items a less than enjoyable experience. If I happen to get the wrong product or brand name I feel bad for the person making the meal, because they had a specific item in mind, and I forced them to adjust. I also felt a bit more pressure since Bert is a celebrity and this was a project that could elevate the status of my career. I also don’t cook, unless you count microwaving leftover pizza, so when Bert requested fennel, leeks, and saffron I questioned if those were food items or the name of a law firm.

Nearly $100 for soup. Not going to lie, it was more than worth it.

Ultimately, I didn’t mess up the grocery list too much, other than getting rotten fish, salted butter, and unfresh garlic cloves. Those mishaps ended up providing great footage when Bert cracked on the nastiness of the fish. Fortunately there was a silver lining, because had everything gone to plan, the video probably wouldn’t have been as entertaining. Nice justification on my part, right?

I was happy with the resulting footage because Bert has a great personality, is great at improvising, and really knows his way around the kitchen. I didn’t have to do much other than give Trevor a few questions for conversation purposes and occasionally get the guys back on track when they lost focus.

In post we ended up scrapping the idea of Trevor as the host, because Bert’s personality outshone everyone, which was to be expected since he is the front man of a very popular band. So, when pitching the show we are making Bert the host and he will cook with his celebrity friends in different episodes.

Generally speaking, I am not a fan of soup, because it rarely provides a filling meal. Bert’s cioppino, however, was remarkable. I was full after two bowls, and still wanted more. It was that ridiculously delicious. I also have a love for anything spicy, and the two habaneros he let sit in the pot gave it the ultimate flavoring.

The finished product

We didn’t want the show to be a typical cooking show and I think we accomplished that. The food is secondary in Exclusive Eats. We want the show to have an edge, like something you might see on MTV, Spike or Fuse, which is why it felt like a party atmosphere with multiple people making appearances in the background including me, Tanner, Brandon, Chicken Rich the cat, a cute neighbor girl, and Airin Older, formerly of the band Sugarcult.

The discomfort I experienced in pre-production of not having a set shoot time, and the discomfort I experienced during production of having to do grocery shopping with no food knowledge didn’t compare to the discomfort Trevor and I both experienced in post-production.

My schedule wouldn’t permit me to sit with Trevor while he edited, so I time coded footage and gave him pieces I thought were relevant and usable. He bought a new Macbook and taught himself Final Cut so that we wouldn’t have to call on more favors and wait on other people. So, I can only imagine the discomfort he experienced alone in his workstation.

Hey Trevor, didn’t your Mom ever tell you to sit up straight.

At least the wall at my house is yellow, as opposed to the blank canvas at Trevor’s.

We realized we needed to introduce the video to serve the purpose of a visual pitch so we ventured to Guitar Center on Sunset Boulevard and shot the piece you saw previously. I was totally expecting to be kicked out of the store, but no one said anything to us, probably because they’re used to the shenanigans that result from being located on Sunset.

If we ever decide to start a rock group, this will be the cover of our first album.

Ultimately, we have a lot of people to thank for giving us something to showcase our creativity and commitment to our careers. Tanner stepped up big time by bridging the gap to his friend Bert. Brandon filmed some solid footage for us to use. Our friend Jeremy created the brilliant Exclusive Eats graphic. And obviously we have Bert to thank because without him none of us could showcase our skills.

We all want to reach higher levels in our careers and we know that it requires a support team around you in order to reach the mountaintop. Plus, it’s probably pretty lonely up there if you don’t have people around you that you like.

Clearly I am deep in thought.

To view Bert’s upcoming tour dates visit The Used’s website here.

To get a quote on designs from Jeremy Podger, like the Exclusive Eats design he created, visit his website here.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

#24 – Start Fire With Two Sticks

I spent most of May away from Los Angeles, and when I was in town I was pretty much just working. Last Monday, however, on a rare occasion I made it home during the daylight hours. And this is how my roommate Jason Hadley greeted me.

Look at that focus

Hadley had a bow, some sticks, a rock, and a fire pit with the intention of trying to start a fire, caveman style. Hadley is a comedian, so I immediately thought he was considering a transformation into a prop comic. Most of the time I don’t question the motives of people in my life, because I have a pretty strange cast of characters orbiting around me. Hadley is no different.

I had no intention of questioning why he was trying to start a fire with two sticks, which is why he offered up the fact that he was just cast in an upcoming reality show titled, “Are You Smarter Than a Boy Scout?” I’m not even kidding.

In order to not look like a fool on TV he was practicing to defeat some 10-year-old boys. Fortunately for me, attempting to start a fire with two sticks was on my Discomfort List of things to do. I say “fortunately” because his casting meant my lazy ass didn’t have to compile the necessary supplies.

My first question for Hadley was how long he had been working at it before I arrived. He said it had been three hours and counting, which meant I had enough time to go workout and not be concerned that I’d miss a bonfire.

When I returned from my workout I examined the set up and noticed that Hadley grabbed some dryer lint and dry grass to use as an igniter underneath his sticks. I don’t know too many deer or owls that utilize a washer and dryer in the wilderness so I think that finding some lint out there may be problem number one if placed in the wilderness and expected to perform the same function. So, the authenticity of any fire we may have garnered could have an asterisk adorning it, simply because of the dryer lint.

After watching Hadley work up a considerable pool of sweat, I tried my luck. I got just about as far as he did. We were both able to garner smoke, but never a flame. Your arms get quite the workout in the process. My attempt was fruitless other than strengthening my jerk-off arm.

I kind of already figured my eventual Cause Of Death would be freezing to death in the wilderness, but this experiment certainly proved that accurate.

In concept, it seems pretty simple to think a fire can be started with two sticks. I’m here to tell you that it is not. In order to create some friction you have to pull and push on the bow with a nice rhythm and you have to keep the stick in place as much as possible. Then when you see smoke rising from your efforts you tend to get a little excited because you think you are close, so you start pushing and pulling harder on the bow, which causes you to lose rhythm which forces the stick to break loose.

I need to shave around my neck.

I gave up after spending about two hours outside. After Hadley attempted for a couple more hours he gave up as well, to be continued at a later date. I thought the endeavor would have ended in one of two ways. We either would have set the block on fire or not even a spark would be generated. I’m not shocked, however, that it ended in the latter.

I contend that our efforts weren’t successful simply because we had nothing on the line. Tom Hanks was able to create fire when he was abandoned on a lonely island because he needed it for survival. All he had was a volleyball and some ice skates. We were in the comfort of our backyard with full stomachs and beverages in hand. For God’s sake, Hadley took a few smoking breaks. I believe we could have created fire if our lives were on the line.

Hadley seems optimistic about his efforts to beat a boy scout, so much so that during the practice session he set up a water hose next to the fire pit, in the chance that he created a scene reminiscent of “Backdraft.” I on the other hand will now always be carrying a lighter with me in the off chance that I end up lost in the wilderness or on a deserted island one day…and knowing my luck, that will happen one day.

To follow Jason on Twitter, click here.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,