In May of 2005, You Learned:
HOW TO WIN.
I got back into town and found out I've been nominated for a few ECNY awards. That was nice and thank you for nominating me, if you did. Now here comes part 2.
The way these awards are structured, people are required to vote again. Yup. You select the "winner" in each category from a multiple choice of nominees. I would be extremely grateful if you'd check out the nomination form and vote for me in the following categories:
BEST COMEDY WRITER: Todd Levin
BEST ONE PERSON SHOW: Weeping Softly Into My Beard
BEST FLYER: Weeping Softly Into My Beard
BEST HOST OF A VARIETY SHOW OR COMEDIC EVENT: Todd Levin & Bob Powers, How to Kick People
and while you're at it:
BEST COMEDY WEB SITE: www.girlsarepretty.com
As for the rest of the form, feel free to use your best judgment, or no judgment at all. Thanks! And it wouldn't be such a horrible thing if you forwarded this to your pals and family and all the guys in your Multi-User Dungeon. I mean, honestly, how many of those, "Which Character on FRIENDS are you?" personality quizlets have you sent them without a trace of shame?
HOW TO GET OUT OF TOWN ALIVE.
Before visiting Berlin and Krakow, I spoke perhaps one or two words of German – my vocabulary was limited to "juden" and "eisterzende nebauten" – and absolutely zero Polish. (Or Polack? I am not sure what the language is called, honestly. It's so CRAZY looking.) Now that I'm back, though, I've significantly improved my skills in the areas of pointing to cake and handing cashiers all of my money while shrugging. I also learned the German word for mixed is "germischten," the German word for potatoes is "kartoufflen," and the German word for five is "funf" (pronouced "fuenf"). For a country that has garnered a reputation as being cold and steely, their language certainly does have a lot of adorable words. (Conversely, the German word for baby is Panzernachtschtuckenfriek, as in, "Where might one dispose of this Panzernachtschtuckenfriek??")
Personal highlights of my trip:
- landing in Krakow at the height of tourist season without a place to stay, and managing to smoothly find boarding for three nights despite the insistence of several people that Krakow was completely booked up
- watching a shirtless Polish (Polack?) guy twirl fire outside a bar one night, then seeing him hanging out in the lobby of my hostel the next
- German pastry
- Turkish doner
- Confirmation that Hitler is still dead
- Watching a very Aryan twelve year-old kid at the Jewish Museum in Berlin, taking part in an interactive poll kiosk. The question in the poll was, "Would you be comfortable with mixed ethnicities in your family?" His answer, preciously, was "Nein." (I have alerted the Jew-run media.)
- Visiting Berlin's open-air market and shopping for dental fillings (zing!)
- Dancing in a dingy Krakow club, and having someone lean over to me and ask, "Do you liking the Raging Against the Machine?" (My answer: nyeh.)
- That kind of insanely cheap drinking you get outside of New York, where you suddenly have this weird false sensation that you're rich and you kind of want to buy every creep in the bar a drink. ($5 for three pints? And no tipping? Sir, please buy that skinhead at the end of the bar a drink!)
- Spending 24 sleepless, drunk hours in London, where our host demanded I slam back glasses of Pinot Grigio. He would taunt me by shouting, "Send it off, Todd. Send it off!!"
- Taking a shit at Auschwitz
- After finally getting over my fear of anti-Semitism, being stopped on the street by a drunk German and asked, "Are you from Jerusalem?" (he later touched my face very gently – a little too gently, in fact.)
- Rostbratwurst (it hurt my belly so much)
- Polish cuisine (ibid.)
- Sharing a hostel bathroom with two of Maxim Magazine's typical "Gold Circle Subscribers"
- Taking a shit at a bus stop (Rostbratwurst!!)
I'm happy to be back and, typically, the things am sure I'll miss most are food-related. German breakfasts, inexpensive, well-made coffee, Turkish fast food, things with custard inside them, etc. But I already miss open spaces, too. And not sleeping alone. And the guy I saw who was riding a Rascal scooter because his legs were missing below the knees and, sitting in the Rascal, where his feet should have been, was a sleeping dog. So lucky! To have a dog for feet.
BEST DRAG QUEEN NAME EVER.
Also, I know this is totally unrelated, but I have you ever seen these:
What's the deal? These don't taste ANYTHING like pandas!!!!! I want my money back, EnviroKidz!
One more thought: there's been a lot of talk lately about building a wall around the U.S./Mexico border to keep out illegal immigrants so they won't cross over and steal our American jobs. That sounds like a great plan but you forgot something, geniuses: WHO'S GONNA BUILD THE WALL????!!???
p.s. This morning, I ejaculated gold coins.
HOW TO STAND FOR SOMETHING.
OK, I am officially leaving for Europe in a few hours and I know I should just go quietly but something has come to my attention which I must call BULLSHIT on.
There is no way in hell that "Sugar" has only emerged victorious in 68% of her battles on KITTENWAR.COM. Look at her! This kitten is so adorable I want to place her in a small glazed ceramic cup, and eat her with a highly decorative spoon. Sugar is a champion. She probably poops little rainbow-colored collectible figurines that smell like raspberries and sun-warmed fur. I'll bet inanimate things, like tea pots and mittens and universal remotes talk to Sugar when no humans are around, and they say, "Sugar, you are the pleasant princess of Morningwood. (That's what they call your apartment when you're not around.) Won't you grace us with a dance?" And then Sugar's all, "OK, whatever dudes," and then she does a crazy little dance where she's standing still and suddenly lifts on leg off the ground, then puts it down and lifts another, and another, totally at random so it looks like a crazy hopping funny dance, and the tea pot whistles with approval and the cheese tray laughs so hard he falls off the kitchen counter and shatters into a milllion sharp pieces. Then Sugar arranges the funeral and delivers a eulogy that's so moving that the tears of all the citizens of Morningwood join and form a rushing stream that Sugar sails down inside a tea cup. Oh, little Admiral Sugar of the SS Petunia, give a wave! Ahoy there! Ahoy!!
I guess what I'm saying is, even with mange or a missing eyeball, that kitten could win 100% of her battles, hands-down, and anything less is a felony of Aggravated Neglect in the first degree.
I feel sick, for the frequenters of KITTEN WAR, and for America.
HOW TO LET THE HOLOCAUST JOKES FLY.
[I expect this will be my last entry until the last week of May or so, as I leave for London Friday evening, and then for Berlin on Sunday. I've already written a great goth song for my new Berliner friends. It's called "Schwarz Nacht!" and it contains both of the German words I know.]
I generally don't like to directly address the readership of this site, because I feel like it cheapens the important work I do here, but I feel I owe an explanation. I haven't updated in a week's time because I've been extremely tied up with work-related obligations and outstanding creative projects. I'm also juggling the planning stages of my impending trip to London and Berlin, for which I leave tomorrow. I've been earmarking travel guide books, making reservations, desperately seeking a sitter for my two cats, and trying to pack clothing that won't make me look too Jewish while I'm in Germany. I decided not to bring my "Jewish Community Center Bake-Off Champion" t-shirt (from Urban Outfitters) or my beard, but I am going to bring my foreskin.
And it wouldn't be a trip to Germany without a slew of delightfully droll Holocaust jokes. Here are a few, courtesy of a chat I had with my friend, Stacey:
Stacey: I hear there's a great open-air restuarant at treblinka
Stacey: brick oven pizza
Todd: they also have a great gym there.
Stacey: oh really?
Todd: it's called Fit For Labor.
Stacey: I was gonna make a dr. mengele joke
Stacey: but then I was like, nah
Todd: go right ahead!
Stacey: he makes haus calls
Todd: i wish you hadn't.
Stacey: "I said gaspacho not gestapo!"
Stacey: I think I stole that from the producers
Todd: i think you did.
Stacey: "don't be schtewpid be sschmarty come and join the nazi party."
Todd: the restaurant is called DaChow.
Todd: my sister held her bridal shower at auschwitz.
Todd: it ended poorly.
HOW TO EAT ALONE.
I had a very pleasant "Internet shut-in" moment this afternoon, as I spent my lunch hour alone, quietly scrutinizing a group of men seated next to me at a Thai restaurant. The men were all computer sales slouchy, groomed with dockers, loafers, TJ MAXX dress socks, and blousy short sleeved button-downs in mellow khaki shades – a style that effortlessly breezes between situations of varying business importance, from on-site calls to club med retreats to Saturday nights in Atlantic City. And on each man, the entire ensemble was accented at the waistline with a clip-on Blackberry device, cinched there like a pink satin ribbon around a Yorkie's neck.
When I see guys like this, all huddled together, my instinct is to ask them which gentleman's club has the best lunch buffet. I consider this very specific niche of wisdom to be the province of men like this. I just suspect they've (collectively and separately) eaten a lot of room temperature ziti in a lot of strip clubs. You have to ask these questions – when you have them – of the correct people, to really gain the staff of knowledge. For instance, if I wanted to know Dracula's middle name, I would pop my head into Hot Topic and give a holler.
When they arrived at their table, the Blackberry Bunch™ made certain to arrange seating with the greatest possible sensitivity to their aggregate left- or right-handedness. ("Who's a lefty here? Yeah, well, make sure you're seated to my left side. Otherwise, we'll have a logistical nightmare on our hands.") This elegantly segued into a story about elementary school desks and how remember the way they were designed for right-handed kids and hey it was kind of a struggle for the left-handed….The story mysteriously trailed off, as did any other stories that weren’t about data loads or iced tea. (The man to my immediate left was disappointed in the iced tea options at the restaurant – Thai-style with condensed milk & oolong – because they did not include, in his own words, "Lipton." It struck me as funny, since I couldn't think of the last time I heard someone request Lipton tea by name, or even use the word "Lipton" in a sentence that didn't begin with "James" and end with "is a pompous, long-winded, ass-kissing penis cozy.")
As the lunch wore on, and I sipped at my Thai iced coffee in the direction of the Blackberry Bunch with deliberate condescension – rolling my eyes with each pull on the straw – one of them must have noticed me, because this is what happened next:
Blackberry Alpha Leader One: Are you eavesdropping, pal?
Me: Uh...(dripping with disgust) no. I'm just enjoying my lunch. Or, I was.
HERE, I HIGH-FIVE A PASSING WAITER, CAUSING HIM TO DROP THREE PLATES OF GAI PRIK NAM. IT WAS WORTH IT, HIS TEARS SAY.
BBALO: Listen, I'm not trying to start trouble. It's just that –
Me: (dripping with forced ennui) Yesssss?
BBALO: Well, it's just that a second ago, when I ordered Pad Thai, I distinctly heard you say, "typical stupid fucking American."
BBALO: And then when Ron (points to another typical stupid fucking American) asked for a Lipton Iced Tea, you yelled out, "Oh my God! I'm totally blogging that!"
Me: Totally unrelated. Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to finish my (dripping with I-am-the-only-smart-clever-hero-in-my-stories juice) cold noodles.
BBALO: Yes, sure, of course. But there's just one more thing.
Me: (big sigh) Whaattt?
BBALO: Can you stop holding that tape recorder up to my face? I'm trying to eat.
So, here's my question: Do you find that people totally won't leave you alone while you're judging them?
HOW TO CHECK FOR ENTRY WOUNDS.
Is everyone OK? I haven't heard from many people today, and I'm wondering if my brother's gang violence warning came to horrifying fruition? I myself was not shot. Nor was I stabbed, gored, choked, yoked, bled, maimed, defenestrated, inculcated, roofied, curbed, laid-off, put-open, hot-footed, short-sheeted, atomic-wedgied, indian rope-burned, charlie-horsed, half-stepped, dissed, put in a corner, punk'd or pantsed. At one point I bit my lower lip, which may or may not have been Crips-related. Jury's still out on that one.
In fact, I have to confess the news of the second suspension (and imminent dissolution?) of Chappelle's Show had a much more powerful impact on my close friends than any acts of gang-related skulduggery. (by the way, I was just awarded an honorary doctorate from my collegeiate alma mater based solely on my effort to incorporate the word "skulduggery" into this post.)
That doesn't mean the street gangs were not out in full force, with their misleadingly vibrant colors flying. Step on the subway platform at 125th Street any time after sunset and you were likely to see any combination of one or more of the following gangs:
- The S'bloods
- The Cruds
- The Crimped
- The Deaths
- The Self-Locking Refrigerators
- The Diving-Somersault-to-Karate-Kicks (They were the only ones i wasn't worried about because they are so easy to beat. As they dive into their patent somersault/karate kick stance, simply take one step back so you're out of their kick's reach. Then shoot them in the belly.)
- The Original Latin Kings of Comedy
- The South Street Slapsies
- The Batman
- The Opposite of Goods
- The Negative Attitudes
- The Insolent Dicks
- The Hard Ones
- The Super Street Fighter III's
- The Shitty Faces
- The Untucked Shirts Despite Several Increasingly Desperate Entreaties to Tuck In Shirts Because We Are Going To Church
- The Stabbingers
- The Aloof Kittens
- The Kerbangers
- The Apple Dumpling Gang, with Nunchuks
- The Potato Eaters
- The Combination Skins
- The Criminally Impolite
- The Murder Pals
- Jake Pistol and the Hollow Points (also an excellent – AND LETAL – rockabilly band)
- The C-Words
- The Gay Bashers
- The Six-Foot Submarine-Style Knuckle Sandwich
- The Uncomfortable Office Chairs
- The Chinese Guys Who Act Like Black Guys
- The Spanking Machine
- The Unfashionably Late
- The Special Needs
- The Suddenly Pink Laundry
- Bed, Bath, and Spiked Bats
- Captain Stabbin's Anal Adventurers
And, of course, The People's Republic of Getting Your Ass Kicked. One wrong move, and you could have been a goner, so let's count our collective blessings.
P.S. My new favorite site!*
*SUCKERS! You've been Link'd!
HOW TO SCARE MY PANTS CLEAN OFF.
I received this message of WARNING on my answering machine this evening. It's from my brother, Dan, a probation officer in upstate New York. He always has good, violent and crazy stories about inner-city pre-teen violence and I tend to believe him – his stories have gained a considerable amount of integrity since high school. Back then, everything was pretty much bullshit.
Anyway, listen up and then watch your backs!
>>DOWNLOAD AND LISTEN TO MY BROTHER'S OMINOUS WARNING<<
HOW TO SHOW YOUR FAITH.
Hello, pals. Voting is open for the Emerging Comics of New York Awards. As you can tell by the fact that their site lives under the domain, "baldalienpimp.com," this is a classy awards show.
Nonetheless, I would be extremely grateful if you would visit their site and nominate my one-man show – "TODD LEVIN – WEEPING SOFTLY INTO MY BEARD" – and the flyer I created for it – for an ECNY. The nomination form is here:
IMPORTANT: YOU DO NOT HAVE TO LIVE IN NEW YORK TO VOTE. You can participated from the far reaches of the globe. And please don't be shy about sending this URL to pals everywhere and encouraging them to vote as well. I promise, if I'm nominated, I'll post the flyer and maybe even some clips from the show.
[If you're looking for other people to nominate in some of the other categories, here are a few suggestions. These are by no means complete – and by every means kind of self-serving, I guess – and I'm sorry if I've left any pals out. I just free-associated for a bit.]
Best male standup comedian:
Best female standup comedian:
Best comedy writer:
Best one person show:
Todd Levin – Weeping Softly Into My Beard
Best variety show:
How to Kick People
Best comedic website:
Todd Levin – Weeping Softly Into My Beard
[If my flyer is nominated, I promise I will try to post it on tremble. I just don't have time to scan the damn thing right now.]
HOW TO BE THE CRYING-ON-THE-INSIDE KIND OF CLOWN.
Last Saturday night I did stand-up at The Shark Show. The show is run by a group of very funny, very nice guys. My set was odd, and kind of bi-polar. There were moments of great faith and enthusiasm on the part of the audience, followed by moments of marked indifference. It's kind of hard to stay on balance when you have a set like that. It's like being on a date with someone who leans in to kiss you goodnight and then whispers in your ear, "please never call me again. Now come upstairs and touch me over my bra."
The audience response to one joke, in particular, really threw me. Here is the joke (don't steal it!):
"My mother has always been a scared and cautious woman. For instance, she was in her high school marching band – she played the rape whistle."
It's an extremely dumb little one-liner, I realize, and I'd only told it once before – to great, misleading approval, I guess. But when I told it on Saturday night, to a room full of young people with nice haircuts, it received a collective "gasp!" followed by tongue-clucking censure. Did I say my mother was raped? Did I say I was raped? Did I say anyone was raped, or was interested in raping someone else? I didn't even joke about the act of rape. It's interesting how people are programmed to hear a certain word and just flip out. It seems silly to defend my stupid one-line joke, but audiences really fascinate and confuse me sometimes. It's strange how people won't even try to contextualize a word; how they're just programmed to hear a word – like "rape" or "suicide" or "holocaust" or "Seacrest" – and just turn pale with disgust. (Please note the way I tried to conceal the very bush league "Rule of Three" in that list, by extending it to four items. That is the kind of misdirection that makes me the "David Blaine of Posting Funny Things on a Web Site." –– Yahoo! Internet Life Magazine, April 20th, 1999)
The whole incident caused me to do something I generally dislike in other comics – though I understand the tendency fully and completely – which was challenge the audience's indifference, right from the stage. I told them they were mistaken, and that the joke was actually very cleverly crafted and deserved more of their positive attention. I literally defied their united opinion of my joke – I think I even used the word "defy" as if I was Clarence Darrow at the Scopes Monkey trial, fighting for the separation of church and State, instead of a Jew with poor posture trying to convince an audience of 40 that rape whistles are hilarious. I did this until a single person in the back of the room applauded the joke. And, of course, that pathetically isolated bit of applause was the milk-giving nipple where this giant, crying baby's mouth didst find purchase. Sated, I continued to terrorize the audience with jokes about pushing crippled children down stairs and whipping a sack of kittens against a telephone pole.
I have tried to be diligent about recording my comedy sets lately, to hear what I did right and wrong, with the faint hope of correction or improvement. However, more often than not, I mess up the recording. That evening's show was no exception, but in the process of screwing up, I accidentally recorded a bit of banter with another comic – one of my current favorites, Rachel Feinstein – just as I was returning to the back of the room after my set. I think it perfectly captures the excruciating self-loathing many comedians experience from time to time (or, in some cases, always), even as they spend their free hours trying to make others briefly happy:
>> CLICK HERE TO LISTEN <<
If the audio was difficult to decipher, here's a transcript:
ME: "I didn't have a very good time."
RACHEL: "Really? You were so fucking hilarious, they loved you."
SHARK SHOW SKETCH: "...Holy balls!!"
Please try to remember this exchange occurred immediately following seven minutes or so of desperately seeking validation from a room full of strangers. You'd think it would end there, or that I would walk offstage, pleased that I managed to make them laugh a bunch at least 75% of the time. Or that I'd be happy to have someone from the audience grab me on my way back to my seat to tell me she thought I was great. Yes, you'd think. I love how, unconsciously, I require further validation, from my own peers. I would expect at comedy shows this exchange of dialogue is about as common as the following soul-soothing exchange between two cavemen:
CAVEMAN A: "Aiyeee!!! Druul make sun go away!"
CAVEMAN B: "No worry. Druul put sun back in sky in 10 cave-hours."
CAVEMAN C: (overheard) "HOLY BALLS!!!"