I have no health insurance. But when you get injured at work, I know they HAVE to cover it. Wonder if I can fall and say it gave me cancer?
*I don’t really have cancer
I’ve been doing stand up comedy with precious little success for about 10 years now. Pretty sure this make me qualified for two things: producing bringer shows and teaching stand up to naive beginners.But everyone does this. I’m gonna (follow me on this) teach a class on how to produce bringer stand up comedy shows! I’ll be thousandaire! And a hateful douche.
Pops was a mechanic.
He understood the workings of most things metallic. Especially cars. By most peoples’ accounts, he was a pretty great mechanic, though he never bragged about his work. He never talked about his work. In fact he never talked about anything. Not to me, not to any of my three brothers, I’m not sure if even he spoke to my mother very often.
I lived with a father who was a stranger in our homes (we moved around a lot, as poor people do, so we lived in many “homes”). Now that I think about it, more than fifteen years after his death, it does seem a little weird. At the time, however, it was absolutely normal. Well, mostly. There were those moments, that were uncomfortable almost to the point of fright. I remember him coming into the kitchen after I had made myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, he to get a drink of water. And we sort of froze there in that tiny kitchen he did his best to help keep stocked with luxurious amenities like peanut butter. I didn’t dare look him in the eye, he went to the kitchen faucet to get his water, he was from the craggiest parts of Mexico, where running water was a bit of an anomaly, so water from a faucet was at least as good as from a well. His kitchen. His running water. His son a little petrified, waiting for him to finish so he can finally pass. He filled up his plastic cup, kept from a convenience store purchase of a giant soft drink, that then became a part of our regular dish ware, looked at me for a moment that felt painfully long, made no expression, and returned to the bedroom. I was glad it was over.
Out of all my brothers, I have been told that I was the most like him. I looked like him, I sounded like him, I even have the same mannerisms he had. I freaked my mother out once, several years after his death with the simple act of scratching behind my ear. Evidently, I made a grimace, and passionately scratched my head while looking at her. Her countenance fell, as if she had seen a ghost. Indeed, in her mind, she had. While creeping my mother out is kinda fun, some of the other attributes I inherited, or perhaps, adopted, are not as great. I’m emotionally distant, I’m quiet, I’m shy, I hate being social. But I do love cars. He gave me that as well. My dad drove some real pieces of shit. Old Volkswagens and Toyotas, so past their prime, they looked like down and out prize fighters bundled with newspapers, on some cold New York street, begging for someone to throw money at them. Well, my dad did notice them, and he did throw precious little money at them. And he gave those once raging bulls another few moments in the lights to fight again.
He was also an alcoholic. But never a violent one. The only act of violence I actually remember him directing at me was him throwing a shoe at me. I was being an obnoxious little shit and kept making noise in his bedroom while he was probably trying to sleep off a hangover. I ducked, he missed, I quietly went outside. Even then, I knew I had it coming. I’m sure he purposely missed, he never hit us. He didn’t have to. His mere presence was enough to shut us up for hours. I remember once, playing with my little brothers, who were twins (yes that makes me the middle child, shocking, I know) arguing, wrestling as annoying little shits do, and we got louder and louder, again, as annoying little shits do. He arose from his crypt and lumbered into the doorway that led into the hall and just stood there. Instantly, we stopped. We sat down, staring at a television that had not been turned on, as afraid to make eye contact with him as Persues was of Medusa. “Is he still there?” My little brother would ask, his vision blocked. I, being the eldest of this particular trio, steeled my valor and slowly moved my head enough to get him in my peripheral vision, and turned back immediately, seeing the shadowy figure still in the hall doorway, “He’s still there.” Dude was scary. But never violent. It was almost like living with a bear that never attacked you. He never made any noise, never noticed you, you’d look past him if was in your way, but you never stopped respecting the fact that if he chose to, he’d swipe at you with his great paw and destroy you.
Oh yeah, my dad had huge hands. Physically, I remember that the most. His oversized fingers wrenching on cars. No bolt could have a hope with his somehow muscular fingers wrapped around a socket drive. Oddly, I’m taller than he was, yet my hands simply don’t measure up to my vision of his hands. Some of it may be legend in my mind now…
One day, he stopped drinking alcohol. Period. No meetings, no churches, just dry. I think the doctor told him he had to stop, because it was ruining his already ailing body. My father’s constitution was always rather weak, even as a child, my mother told me. Alcohol was somehow destroying him faster. I don’t really know the particular facts, because, well, I never talked to him. Also, I never talked to my mother about him. How do you open a discussion about the stranger that lived in your homes from whose loins you sprung? Odd conversation, to say the very least. Especially with mom. The absence of alcohol in his brain, evidently created a chemical chasm that made him epileptic. Or maybe he always was, but rarely had seizures, who knows? But nonetheless, they began. I was in my teens when it really happened a lot. I had to keep an eye on him at all times when he was driving us to school, or wherever, in case something happened.
But when something did happen, it didn’t happen in a car. It happened in a bathroom. Now understand, I am not proud of my actions in this next memory, but it was what a sixteen year old in my world did. He entered the bathroom, I didn’t really notice him, but I knew only he and I were in the house. I heard the shower faucet turn on as I was lacing up my bargain skate shoes, as I was to meet up with my ne’er do well, miscreant friends to, well, skate. Just as I was about to leave, I heard a series of thuds coming from the bathroom. For a moment, I stopped. In the next moment, I decided it was probably nothing. In the last moment, I moved towards the bathroom. The bathroom door was unlocked, as it always is in big families, you never know when someone else has to piss. As I glared through the steam, I noticed there was no telltale silhouette behind the sliding glass of the shower. Without a word, what would I say, really, I opened the door and saw his naked body prone on the floor of the tub, the hot water going around him like a body in a river. I did the only thing I thought to do: I turned off the water, and turned his head up, so that he wouldn’t drown, closed the glass door again, then I left the bathroom. And hoped what I did was right. I wanted him to be alright, but I also didn’t want to humiliate him, least of which in a nude state. A minute later, I heard the glass door open, then close. Five minutes later, he emerged from the bathroom. And I left to meet my friends. The bear would stalk again, thankfully.
Except for arguments, I never really remember my mother and father talking. Maybe that’s true for a lot of families, I don’t know. I suspect my father hated his life. I don’t think he wanted to live here in Los Estados Unidos. Back home in Sinaloa and Mexicali, he was a respected young man. He drove trucks, and he fixed them. Up here, he was just another wetback getting paid a fraction of what an american would get. Yes, america, he took a job away from a good white american. But if it’s any consolation, we lived in squalor. Hope that makes that pill go down a little easier. But I guess if any “naturally” born american wanted to work his job for slave pay, I guess he could have, and pops could have gotten a more Mexican job. Like gardner.
He also had to live with his mother in law. Yeah! You think you’re life is hard? Try living in a country where you barely speak the language, get paid pauper’s wages, AND have to live with your mother in law. My father was in hell. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my grandmother, but she was his fucking mother in law! Also, she was a little nuts (perhaps I’ll write about her one day). As I got older, I began to understand why he had an affinity for all things mechanical, and not human. Sometimes I think he was perpetually angry at my mother for dragging him up here so that his middle child (me) could be born a citizen of this country. I have the dubious honor of being the first Vargas born in El Norte. Whatever his feelings for my mother, love or disdain, I never really heard either one.
While he was, somewhat magically, able to kick alcoholism, he could never kick his addiction to Marlboro Reds. And in the closing chapters of his life, he spent his days infirmed, imprisoned in his bedroom, on a single bed. My mother and he had stopped sleeping in the same bed some time before that. In one instance, he emerged from his makeshift hospital room. I remember it was his 50th birthday. He came out of his cell to enjoy some cake. He seemed happy, he even smiled at me. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a bear smile, but it’s something! I vividly remember him sitting on the easy chair in the living room, in full upright position. His elbows resting on his knees. He looked like he was concentrating on breathing. Like he was making sure to take in as much oxygen as his failing lungs would allow. And I remember thinking his life is over. When you have to concentrate on doing something autonomic, then it is over. You can’t will your lungs to breathe. You can’t will your heart to beat. The next day he was dead.
My grandmother called my mother at work frantically to tell her to come home immediately, being careful not to tell her why. I remember when she came in, for some reason, I can’t remember many sounds, only the images. She walked in, my grandmother said something to my mother, and she panicked and flailed at the news, and all at once, I heard her cry. It is the only sound I can remember now. And in that moment, I witnessed the love that she did have for this tacit man, this walking catatonic. Years of companionship, memories of courtship, memories of experiences only shared by them, feelings that were never expressed, but somehow, always felt. She finally lost him. The boy she liked, the man she loved, gone.
He had left the world the way I remember him in it: quiet.
I inherited a lot from my father. His emotional distance. His love of all things mechanical. But I will never be as great a mechanic as he, because in spite of it all, I do enjoy humans, maybe a tiny bit more than he did. Because he didn’t understand us, he couldn’t enjoy us.
But then, pops was a mechanic.
I like violence. I hope that’s okay with most of you. Or, maybe I don’t care. But it is my admission to make. I enjoy violence.
But, I really only enjoy make believe violence. Not the real thing. When a movie treats violence just right, and exactly as it pertains to support the structure of the film, or to propel the story, it can be perfect. Also, it can be pretty fucking hilariously awesome when it’s over the top and ridiculous (thank you, “Rambo III”). “The Wild Bunch” begins and ends in a flurry of blurred and slow motion violence that is so beautiful to watch, that I truly believe if you are a male of our species, and you don’t enjoy it, you may have a problem with your testicles. Have yourself checked out, because they may be producing estrogen now.
My friend Matt Dwyer and I have discussed how we fervently hope that one day Scorsese will stop making movies for the academy and for children (really, they’re one and the same), and go back to making movies in which Italians stomp and saw and shoot each other to death. But, it’ll probably never happen, alas.
Violence is a very male thing, too. I understand that, and I accept it. It’s how we express, practically everything. If we’re good friends, I may come up behind you and punch you in the kidney, not enough to cause damage, but just enough to hurt you and show you that I love you.
But again, this is make believe violence. Not the real thing.
We have a frightening problem in our society with violence. Every now and again, some lone nut goes crazy ala “Taxi Driver” and kills a bunch of people. Though, unlike the movie, few, if any are deserving of death, and the numbers are always much higher. Take whatever current gun tragedy just occurred. I don’t want to make this topical, so insert whatever lone-nut-kill-crazy-rampage may have just transpired, I’m sure there is one, because unless there has been some serious change (there hasn’t), it has happened. Again. In my world, as I write this, the almost boring pattern has repeated itself: Gun tragedy followed by shock and sadness, followed by NRA erectile dysfunctional assholes screaming about their stupid “cold dead hands,” followed by screams of violence to befall the perpetrator of said violence, if they had survived.
And therein lies the problem.
There are few things I find sadder than the way we react to horrible tragedies. We do not reflect upon our lives, we do not partake in introspection, we only want two things: more guns and more violence.
Immediately after, people want the motherfucker dead. They want him tortured. They want him fucking skinned alive. Why? Because of the violence he has created (genius). This is why I put my head in my hands and, for a moment, despise us as a society. Fuck trial by jury, fuck any semblance of law and order, only a plea to drag us back into the middle ages.
This happens in many other facets of the black diamond that is our society. Ask any person you think is a normal, thinking human what should be done with child molesters. Answers of genital mutilation and torture and death are invariably the answer. That’s brilliant. Because we all hate child molesters, right? So, yeah, torture and death. What else do we despise? Rapists? Yeah, T&D! People who kill old people, they’re kind of horrible too, right? T&D! Where will it all end? When we have introduced our own form of sharia law? But, you know, for the good of society. Cut off his hands! He stole a Coke from the 7-11!
Hey! You guys remember the McMartin Pre-School trial? I do! I was but a child. A pre-school was accused of child rape and satan worshipping (my favorite). Turns out, the investigators were leading the obsequious children with their questions! They were all innocent! Whew! Too bad our good for society sharia law wasn’t implemented at the time, huh?
See, here’s how it works: If you cannot support basic human rights for the worst of us, you should not expect them for yourself. See? Simple. If you were unjustly accused of something, you’re goddamn right you would expect those basic human rights. But if you support the killing of some psychotic who killed a roomful of people, do you really think you should get better rights than he did? How do I know you didn’t do it? All the evidence points to you. All the witnesses the cops beat and threatened into accusing you are saying you did it! Where should we start then? What manner of torture should you suffer?
Which brings me to the other, equally terrifying and annoying reaction: not less guns, MORE guns! Because, obviously, if the guy had an AR-15, a shotgun, several handguns, and hundreds, if not thousands of rounds of ammunition, and full body armor, it makes perfect sense that the moron, who just got his .22 after his waiting period, is the perfect candidate to “take the shot” like some well trained sniper in Vietnam.
You know what’s just as deadly as a gun, if not more so? A fucking car! I drive, and ride a motorcycle in Los Angeles, trust me, few, if any of you are worthy of driving, let alone carrying a concealed weapon. You can’t even angle your fucking right turn properly, you think you can take some dude out that has been planning this for months, through a haze of fear and cordite? Grow the fuck up. All you’re gonna do is inadvertently shoot a good number of people trying to run away. And because you did that, guess what? No trial, no jury, just death for you. That’s what you get for killing people.
Now. I think I’ll watch “Casino” and reminisce about the days of good Scrosese violence and try to forget about the most stupid, and always loudest, in our society,
I don’t do jokes about rape. I don’t do jokes about gays. I don’t do jokes that are racist. I’m boring as a comic, I guess..
People often ask me, when they find out I do comedy (after they get over their shock), what kind of comedy do I do? Frankly, I don’t know. Usually I just answer, “I do jokes about what pisses me off, and what I think is funny. Often at the same time!” Then I’m asked, “Where do you do comedy?” This one always has me flummoxed. “Wherever they let me, I guess.”
Those places have been that “let me” have been dwindling like fireflies at dawn.
Lot of talk lately about what can and can’t be said, or should and shouldn’t be said. You’re not allowed to say you don’t think women are funny. You’re not allowed to crack a rape joke. You’re not allowed to make a joke about slavery. Even if you’re Chris Rock. Lest you suffer the impotent wrath of the trolls.
I myself, have been accused of misogyny in my jokes. And for the fucking stupid, worthless, life of me, I have yet to find anything hinting at misogyny. Oh, I do jokes about women, because I’m heterosexual and women have been a part of my life (from time to time), but mostly, I think my jokes as they pertain to the fairer sex are more about constantly being mystified by what they say and do. As I’m sure women can say the same us horrible men.
I’m not saying I don’t have slightly chauvinistic thoughts, I grew up in this patriarchal society as much as you did. More so. I grew up Mexican. My people are some sexist fucks sometimes. But, I fought against it, and now believe that all women are at least equal to men and deserve every single opportunity, pay raise, promotion, and job that any man can do. Especially the stupid men. For fuck’s sake, someone dethrone those idiots! But (and here’s where my chauvinism runs rampant) I find myself attracted to women that are “girly.” Sorry. I like a girl that wears make up, dresses up, fixes her hair. Please don’t put me on a cattle car!
But am I a misogynist? I guess you can make that decision. Call me what you like. We’re probably not friends, and I probably couldn’t fucking care less what you think. My friends and family know who I am, and if you asked me, you would too.
Quick history lesson about me: I’ve seen the inside of a cop’s shotgun more than once in my twenties when I ran with communists, and wanted to liberate ALL of the working class (including women). One cop even tried to break both my arms by bending them behind my back. I think he was making a wish. Probably two.
I am not ironic about what I believe. I actually believe these crazy things I spew into microphones at people, sometimes a dozen people at a time! But I don’t think I get irony completely. It’s kinda the tool of the younger comic. To say something, and not actually mean it, is somewhat alien to me. I don’t even dress ironically. If you see me wearing a Melvins shirt, it’s because I LOVE The Melvins. I button my flannels all the way to the top. Why? I just think they look better that way. I’m not going for laughs, I really like the way I look in a buttoned up to the top shirt. Hey, if they didn’t want me to button that top button, why the fuck did they put it there? As a joke?
Sarcasm? My generation honed that fucker to razor sharpness. Yeah, like I wouldn’t get sarcasm! Irony, I’m still a little mystified by it. Maybe irony is a woman…
I say what I mean into microphones.
That’s why I don’t do jokes that are derogatory towards women, gays, and folks of other races. Because I really do care about people. Fuck you, it’s true!
In the shit storm that has been brewing for quite a while now over what can you say and what can you not say, I find it troubling that few of the younger ilk of comic talks about racism. You know, the “funny” ironic kind.
I’ve done a lot of comedy shows, mostly in the “alternative” scene (and I fucking hate that label), and quite often I’ve had to sit and wait for my turn while a good looking young white person does jokes that would fit better in the 30s when blacks and Jews were not even allowed into these establishments. But they don’t mean it, right? Because they went to college. Because they’re using racism against itself. Makes sense? Yeah. Because when your house is flooding because the hurricane destroyed the levee and your government is taking its sweet ass time to rescue you, the thing that makes the most sense to do is turn on all the faucets, right?
To sit there and hear the pretty white guy talk about Jose the gardner or Rosa the maid, is supremely annoying to me. Because, there’s a chance, albeit slight, that my mother did indeed clean his family’s house when he was a spoiled little shit of a child, whose parents assured him that everything he did was the greatest thing ever done. Also, my aunt’s name is Rosa. She drove a lunch truck when only us Mexicans were stupid enough to eat at them. I mean a real lunch truck, where she made the best tacos and breakfast sandwiches you’ve never had. A real one. Not a bourgie ice cream, grilled cheese or caviar “lunch truck.” A real one that was a craze among us before they got all weirdo and became a craze among the youth. You’re welcome.
These are the people I think of when I hear these supremely lame jokes.
And yet, I’m not allowed to punch him in the stomach.
"Ironic racism" is huge on stage. It has been for years now, and has no hint of dying. It is these guys who get booked over and over again at all the same shows that have long ago shunned me. Which is fine. I’m not for everybody.
In the end, say what you want. I don’t care how hurtful or disgusting your viewpoint is, say it. Be a nazi joke teller, I don’t care. If I can’t defend the worst of us, I should not expect anyone to defend me.
I will only say this about “ironic racism:” Do you know what the difference is between an “ironic” racist and an actual racist? Nothing. You’re a racist. Admit that you’re a racist and go see if Carlos Mencia needs an opener.