November 9, 2017 (Thursday)

In college, everybody admired Jim's shorts.

In college, everybody admired Jim's shorts.

Spent the night in Boise, Idaho, with my college roommate, Jim.  He’s a lawyer and also the king of an island in Idaho. 

Men's Room, Modern Hotel, Boise, ID.

I met him in the bar of the Modern Hotel, which seemed like the kinda place that would happen if somebody went to the Standard in LA and said “We should do this in Boise!” and then they went back to Boise and bought a really upscale Motel 6 and fixed it up. It was great. 

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Then we had dinner at the Saint Lawrence Gridiron . Delicious. Except. We got these tequila drinks that weren’t quite margaritas, but one of the ingredients was rock salt, and then they came and THERE WAS NO SALT ON THE RIM! So Jim asked the waiter where the salt was, and he told us it was actually mixed into the drink to give it a creamier mouthfeel. “Exploring the roots of American cuisine” indeed. Who can forget when Merriweather Lewis first tasted the waters of the Columbia River, and turned to William Clark and said, “This is great! Taste this…” and Clark was like “It… needs a creamier mouthfeel,” and then Sacagewea was ll like “Oh FFS you guys!” Also when they brought the roasted chicken I ordered (which was good) it LOOKED like when a chicken loses all its feathers in a cartoon- just a naked, glistening, white, headless chicken carcass. Like, it didn’t look cooked. It WAS, but it didn’t look it. Anyway, the mouthfeel was fine. 

Bunk Mcnulty.png

Then we went to a bar and solved all of each other’s and everybody’s and the world’s problems.

            It’s tough when you live far away from people you care about, because you don’t get to see them as often as you would like. That’s been one of the great things about this tour so far. Last few years, Jim and I have done pretty well at seeing each other once or twice a year. This was a great excuse. Even though I didn’t have a show in Boise, it was one of my favorite stops yet.

November 8, 2017 (Wednesday)

I was in Portland again tonight, and did a show at a pizza place. The guy who ran the show (Marcus) was nice enough to put me on last minute just thanks to Ario’s say-so, which was very cool. It was kind of a big room, and kind of a small audience. And my set went very poorly at first. Jokes that I know are good, that have worked over and over and over,  just not working. That’s always the most frustrating thing in stand-up- when you are doing stuff you know SHOULD be working, but it’s not. You know it’s not the jokes. And it can never be the audience (what never?) (no never) (what never?) (well, hardly ever.) (he’s hardly ever sick at sea!). So what is it? It’s me. What do I do? Slow down. Connect. And it worked. The set got immeasurably better.  Then, at the end of my set, when I was gonna go out with the good stuff, The Chocolate-Thunder-Flying, Robinzine-Crying, Teeth-Shaking, Glass-Breaking, Rump-Roasting, Bun-Toasting, Wham-Bam, Glass-Breaker-I-Am-Jam, I did something I’d never done before, in almost twenty years (ulp) of doing standup. I was trying to adjust the mic stand and the mic IN the stand and I punched myself in the mouth, drawing blood. For some reason this put the whole experience over the top for me. I was delighted. It really made me happy. Not sure why.  And then the pizza was not bad.

By the way, also never ever sick at sea?  Gus Avrakotos. RIP PSH.

Anyway, good time. Stay weird, Portland. You can do it.

Stolen from Austin. 

Stolen from Austin. 

November 7, 2017 (Tuesday)

So I woke up and had breakfast with Hart (he cooked eggs and bacon with avocadoes and tomatoes for the second day in a row- man, that guy gets me) (he also had slow-cooked pulled pork!), then headed for Portland. As soon as I crossed the border into the United States of America and started to feel the greatness that is being made again, I noticed the “check engine” light was on in my luxurious 2005 pinstriped Toyota Corolla. Now, I’m not a car guy. I’ve owned a few over the years, starting with my parents’  Chevy wagon that I used after high school (or maybe I just used it and it wasn’t really mine- cuz I know my brother used it too- one time he’d been using it and had to go to the airport, so I went with him to bring the car back home, and it wasn’t til I was on my way home from the airport heading into a toll interchange on I-95 {the THRUWAY!} that was about 13 lanes wide that I realized he had never put any gas in the car, which I realized because as I started to cross from Lane 8 to Lane 7 the car sputtered and died, and luckily it was on a grade to the toll booth so I was able to slowly roll across 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 onto the shoulder without being smashed by the idiots in cars and also 18 wheelers who always feel like they have to speed up to the tollbooth… no cellphones then… I had to climb up a concrete retaining wall and an embankment, and found a UPS warehouse where they were loading trucks… I walked in, past a bunch of dudes loading stuff, down a couple flights of stairs and found an office, when all of a sudden somebody saw me and everybody started yelling about how I wasn’t supposed to be in there and how did I get in {it was really easy}…).]

OK, it wasn't  this  old.

OK, it wasn't this old.

Basically, I did absolutely everything wrong. Although I don't know about calling 911...

"911- what is your emergency?"

"I ran out of gas on the--"

"Oh fuck off."

Anyway, upon perusal of the manual I had never opened before I learned that if the light is steady, it’s probably something minor, and if it’s blinking, GET OUT! NOW! My light was steady, but I still wanted somebody to look at it. By this time I was somewhere around Bellingham, Washington, so I stopped at Axton Automotive. Shout out to those guys. A guy came out, hooked up a gadget, looked at some computer stuff, and told me the light definitely was not a big deal, probably had to do with emissions/a solenoid/ something, the car would be fine for my whole drive, he could get rid of the light but it might come back on. *NB as of a week later it’s back on* Definitely get it checked back in LA but don’t worry about it. We talked a little about comedy, then he told me he had grown up in the Valley. He was up in Washington because his wife was in the Navy and stationed nearby (Whidbey Island? Kitsap? Hmm…). He loved it there, but she was being reassigned to San Diego, so he was excited to go back to California. Then he wouldn’t charge me, and refused to accept a tip, So we shook hands and I rolled out.

Naval Base Kitsap

Naval Base Kitsap

Mike Birbiglia

Mike Birbiglia

Got to Portland just in time to sign up for the open mic at Helium. Ario had assured me that the Helium open mic was curated in such a way that real people often came out to see the show, and they were pretty into it.  Having just done a number of open mics for the first time in a while right before I left LA, where I would get onstage and talk out loud to a bunch of aspiring comics checking their phones, I found that hard to believe. But he said the club curated the show really well, and put up newer comics, pros who were in town for shows (in the outgoing phone message I got when I called them, they specifically mentioned Dave Chapelle and Mike Birbiglia as people who would show up for the open mic when they were in town), people who had never done stand-up before, and people like me, whatever that is. But I had called the club and left them a message about how I was in town, and then I showed up and put my name on the list, and half an hour before show time they put the list of comics who were gonna be on the show down on the bar outside the showroom. All the hungry comics gathered eagerly around, checking for their names, like it was the school play. People took photos of the list and posted it up on Facescope and Squarechat and stuff for the comics who hadn't come back yet, so they wouldn't have to if they weren't on it. It really was exciting. And I got up to the list... And sure enough, there it was, like a sign on a marquee surrounded by blinking lights: “Sean Conroy- 3 minutes.” Now, if you’ve ever seen me perform, you know that for whatever reason it usually takes me about three minutes  to get the mic out of the stand, so this would be interesting. Or would it? 

Dave Chapelle

Dave Chapelle

As I waited around for the show, I realized that there were people streaming into the showroom. Like, real people. Lots of them.  Ario was right. It ended up being packed! Well, not packed, but easily over half full (easily less than half empty? Too pessimistic).  3 minutes or not, it was great. 

Then Ario and I went to another open mic (yes, I am on tour, going to open mics- I'm exactly like Birbiglia and Chapelle). It was at a craft beer place that sold growlers, cool place, great ambience, back room for the show, everything you could want, EXCEPT it is called The Big Legrowlski, and is Big Lebowski-themed. Like, a sign on the wall that says “The Dude Abides.” The back room was called “The Rug Room.” In the Rug Room there was an ugly, framed, shawl-collared sweater. That seems like too much to hang on a movie from like 20 years ago, that a lot of people don't know. I feel like I can only think of one other person who would make a business decision like that.  But his would be a bar called, like, The Groonlersies. Or something.

The Dude abides.

The Dude abides.

That rug really tied the room together. Also, is that a ghost?

That rug really tied the room together. Also, is that a ghost?

But the show was great, the beer was tasty, and they advertised pickleback shots, which I have a love/hate relationship with (with which?), for obvious reasons (they are disgusting and also the official drink of one of my favorite TV shows.

Pickleback.jpg

November 6, 2017 (Monday)

A Long Shot podcast fan (#LoShoPoFa) named Hart was kind enough to come to the show last night with the Sunday Service, and had offered me a place to stay a while back. I crashed at his place, then today we went on a walk around part of Vancouver, out along the water to English Bay within sight of the Pacific Ocean. We walked through Granville Island, which is a hub of shops and stores (and retail establishments), with an upscale indoor market and a Theatersports. The kind of place that exists in any cosmopolitan, metropolitan city worth its salt at this point. Great coffee. We wandered through a marina, lots of people working on their boats, then reached a point where right across the water from us was West Van, and then, slightly beyond that, the North Shore Mountains. The highest peak in the range is less than 6000 feet, but they are very rugged and beautiful and right outside the city, so you can see them from everywhere. Hart told me that you can get on mass transit, head out to the mountains, and be at some recreational ski areas within 45 minutes. It was also, unusually according to Hart, a clear brisk cool sunny day. Vancouver is a beautiful city, and I could kind of see why it is consistently named one of the top five cities to live in (in which to live?) in North America. As with Portland it helps to have somebody who lives there to give you the dope. Also, it totally makes sense somebody would use it as a stand-in for the part of New York where I went to high school. They’re practically identical.

A boat is basically a building that lives on the water.

A boat is basically a building that lives on the water.

A building is just a mountain that lives on land next to a boat.

I am a very old and popular story that may be true...  (photo courtesy of Phil Arsenault)

I am a very old and popular story that may be true...

(photo courtesy of Phil Arsenault)

(Photo courtesy of Phil Arsenault)

(Photo courtesy of Phil Arsenault)

Then that night I headlined a standup show at the Fox Cabaret (the or no the?). Also on the show were two very funny Vancouver comics, Sophie Buddle (@sophiebuddle) and Abdul Aziz (@abdulazizcomedy) It was really fun, but also let’s just say I am not nearly as much of a draw as The Sunday Service. But a couple of #LoShoPoFa came out, and it was great to meet them.  I got to do almost an hour, and some of it worked, and some of it didn’t, and some of it needs work, but that’s why I’m doing this.

The cats at either end are there because the Fox Cabaret used to be a porn theater.  (Photo courtesy of Phil Arsenault)

The cats at either end are there because the Fox Cabaret used to be a porn theater.

(Photo courtesy of Phil Arsenault)

November 5, 2017 (Sunday)

I drove up to the Canadian border, and I accidentally ended up in the “Nexus” lane, which is basically Frequent Flyer club for border crossers. I am not a frequent flyer. So I was questioned intensely- why was I in that lane? (NB: “Siri told me to” is not a valid excuse). I only lied to the border guard twice, and was admitted to Canada.

This is from Granville Island, but it's in Vancouver, so even though it didn't happen til Monday I'm posting it Sunday.

This is from Granville Island, but it's in Vancouver, so even though it didn't happen til Monday I'm posting it Sunday.

 

I got to perform with an improv group in Vancouver, British Columbia (that means they’re Canadian, so they like hockey and they’re always sorry about shit). They’ve been performing their show for 11 years, and they do it at a very cool space called the Fox Cabaret.  I’m never at my most comfortable when meeting new people (I suppose I could have stopped at “never at my most comfortable,”) but they could not have been more friendly and welcoming. Caitlin (sp?), Ryan, Kevin, and Martin were a lot of fun, and the show was a joy. We “warmed up” before the show (not my bag, man! We’ve never “warmed up” before an ASSSSCAT show, and for The SWARM we huddle up right before we go on and all say in unison “Nooooo Doubt!”, only because I saw a documentary once about No Doubt and that’s what they would do before shows and I thought it was hilarious) with a very intimate, physical warmup that involved deep, meaningful eye contact and cheek-touching and stuff with everybody in the group, then did a first half of short form stuff and a second half of longform stuff. It was a lot of fun, and Kevin’s obscene swarm of bees is something I’ll never forget.

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            In between, Evany Rosen (who also performed with us and was very funny) read from her hilarious book, What I Think Happened. You can get a copy here. Or here. Or here.

 

      The house was packed, and people seemed to enjoy it (even the guy who sat in the front row, and immediately plunked his feet up on the stage as if he were a bored small-town sheriff). I feel like people only ever do that at improv shows (Word keeps autocorrecting “improv”  to “improve”- a message from the Universe?). If you’re at a show, don’t put your feet on the stage. My old friend John Cameron Telfer used to do a thing where he would come out and go right up to somebody who had their feet on the stage, and he would look at them in a curious and friendly manner, and say cheerfully, “Hi! Are you in show business?” And when the person invariably said no, Telfer would scream, “THEN GET YOUR FUCKING FEET OFF THE STAGE!”  And it was hilarious. Every time.

November 4, 2017 (Saturday)

This was a little gazebo-type thing outside the theater itself, which was great because it was POURING rain...   

This was a little gazebo-type thing outside the theater itself, which was great because it was POURING rain...

 

Tonight’s show was at a place called the Funhouse Theater, which was another cool space. They clearly do plays there, so there were lots of props in the greenroom, and an obscene John Mullaney quote on the greenroom mirror, and a set with a fireplace and a clown painting and fake bookcases.  I did a great riff during my set where I looked at the bookcases and said something along the lines of , “Ha! Look.” Pretty brilliant. But the show, which is called Imma Leave You With This, was great, despite being a midnight show that started about 35 minutes late. Ouch! My cousin and his wife, with whom I’m staying here in Portland, came out for the show, and I always feel like a jerk when normal people end up having to stay out wayyyy later than they ever would (these guys have 3 young kids, and probably ended up finally going to bed around 3). But the show was really fun. And I got to meet a #loshopo fan, which is always fun. I won’t say who it was but he has written us several times.

Vintage Mullaney, which I didn't know until somebody pointed it out to me later on IG.

Vintage Mullaney, which I didn't know until somebody pointed it out to me later on IG.

            Another cool thing I did today was I went on a walking tour of Portland. Ario Lynch, another #loshopo fan who has literally been my guide to Portland, also gives walking tours for the Portland Historical Society, whose name I am undoubtedly getting wrong. But we walked around Old Town Portland and learned a lot about some of the dark stuff in Portland’s past. Did you know that in 1923 there were 35,000 registered KKK members living in Oregon? Did you know that starting  in 1844 it was made illegal for freed slaves to settle in the Oregon territory? That Portland took great pride, at the time, that they were the first American city to intern all their Japanese citizens after the start of World War II?  We also learned about crimping, which was a 19th century practice of tricking guys into signing contracts to be sailors for 4 or 5 years. They’d get guys passed out drunk, strip them naked (so they could sell their clothes), bring them on board ships and throw them in cells. When the guys woke up, they’d be told it would be no problem getting out of the cell if they just signed a piece of paper- which of course was a contract guaranteeing them $400 or $500 if they completed their length of service,  usually about four or five years. Nothing before then. And if they didn’t complete the term, they got nothing.  Crazy. But the craziest thing about it was that it was all considered legal and aboveboard, because there were contracts involved. Everybody had realized that sailing was, as Ario said, “… the worst job in the world…”- filthy, dangerous, poorly compensated,  exhausting, no health benefits, tiny 401 k donations…

On my way home I stopped to get toothpaste at a 7-11, because I am such a good and well-prepared traveller that I always remember everything. It was 2:30 AM, freezing cold, pouring rain, and there was a guy right inside the door of the store. he saw me coming and opened the door for me, with a hearty greeting, which I returned less enthusiastically. "Good. How are you?" "Aw man, I been waiting for my ride, he said he would be here half an hour ago but he hasn't showed yet." "That sucks," I said, using a phrase that was absolutely not allowed in my house growing up, I suppose given that it implied either "cock" or "shit" or "the poison out of a rattlesnake wound." Then he went and stood right outside the door, almost as if he were waiting for me. I found what I needed, then headed outside. My new friend was right there. "You headed south?" he asked, having seen me drive up to the store heading south. "Sorry man, can't help you." As I unlocked my door, he softly, angrily shouted "I was gonna give you five bucks!"

 

Next time lead with that. 

 

November 3, 2017 (FRIDAY)

Tonight I got to perform at Fly Ass Jokes, Portland’s longest-running comedy show. I’m not sure how long that means (I feel like at one point my old pals at Chicago City Limits touted themselves as “New York’s Longest–running Show!” and of course The SWARM takes pride in the fact that many years ago someone thought it would make good copy to refer to us as “The UCB’s oldest and most dangerous improve cadre”- a quote we’ve slapped on everything since. Not funny, hilarious, amusing- not brilliant, inspirational, otherworldly-  just "oldest and most dangerous").

            The show was in a space called the Brody Theater, a small theatrical room with a stage and bar (and a bunch of chairs). It was a great space, and the show was really fun. But the best part was that my old nursery school buddy showed up and watched the show.  Gregg and I used to carpool to nursery school together every day when I was 3 years old. We both look different. Though the show was really fun, it was definitely what used to be called an “alternative” comedy show- in other words, not at a comedy club. And there was a crowd, and they were into the show, but it wasn’t a huge crowd. Like, last weekend both shows I did at the Tempe Improv had hundreds of people in the audience. But I was glad Gregg got to see a show that was more in line with my career- weirder, more experimental, and less focused on the business in show business.

Gregg and his buddies used to push me around a little when I was in 7th grade (they were all 8th graders). 

Gregg and his buddies used to push me around a little when I was in 7th grade (they were all 8th graders). 

            Then we went looking for a place to grab a drink. In Portland. Harder to find than you would think! The first place we went into had a cover charge, and as we waited on line, I realized that a) it was a drag bar, and b) perhaps because of that, or maybe it was unrelated, the terrible dance music was unbelievable loud, which would have had an effect on our conversation. Finally we found a shitty sports bar and caught up on the haps since the last time I saw him, 37 years ago.

November 2, 2017

The tour begins.

I headed out of Los Angeles this morning in my stuffed Toyota Corolla, knowing there were lots of things I hadn't remembered to pack, and lots of things I hadn't taken care of before I left, but also knowing that it was at the point where it didn't matter anymore. Hit the 5 and headed north for Sacramento. The great Tony Camin had seen my Facebook post about heading to Oregon and asked if I wanted to stop and do a guest set at the Sacramento Punchline, which, yeah! The headliner was Mark Normand, who I'd met years ago and didn't really remember anything about except that I remembered he was funny. And I was right! So, fun show.

Tony Camin: "Childless? How about fun- MORE !"

Tony Camin: "Childless? How about fun-MORE!"

Then I went to Starbucks to grab a coffee for the road. I went to use the bathroom. There were two guys waiting on line (yes, I'm from New York). Both of them went in and neither of them locked the doors. So both doors still said "vacant." Another guy walked up and immediately brushed past me and went to open one of the doors. I told him there was somebody in there, and he started to disagree based on the sign, then he realized that he recognized me as an employee of the Starbucks. "You work here, right?" "No." I recognize you. You are the guy from over there.." "Nope, not me." "Yes." "No." "Well, you look like that guy." OK.

Then I drove a couple more hours and stopped in Redding. A Motel 6 with a very bustly desk clerk. Seems like not a lot to do as a desk clerk, but that's not how she looked at it. "Are you okay staying on the freeway side?" "I guess... I mean-" "THat's all I have so you better be okay with it." I guess I am then. 

DIdn't realize til the next day how glad I would be not to charge into the Mt. Shasta National Forest at midnight, where Interstate 5 turns into The Cyclone in Coney Island. Glad I didn't do that at night.