Nothing Is Less Funny Than Scientologists Doing Comedy
All the great men of history have had their escape valves, their private passions. Einstein played the violin. Disraeli wrote romantic novels. Napoleon used to rub two ferrets covered in sulphur together until one of them caught fire. So it is with the head of Narconon International, Scientology’s notorious drug-rehabiliation wing.
The guys and gals in Laughworks have been taking their laugh-an-hour routines around the Scientology world for the last decade, but of late they’ve gone quiet. Clark in particular has been busy defending his organization from charges that it routinely took out credit cards in the names of people it was supposed to be helping. All that changed last Tuesday, when Stand Up for Valley Org took to the stage in LA. As the name suggests, it was an entire evening of Scientologyl comedy devoted to raising money for the San Fernando Valley Scientologists’ plan to build an Ideal Org, which is a deluxe kind of church.
Twitter has also held a greal deal of fascination for me. As someone with a lowly amount of followers, it has always geeked me out knowing that you can @ or talk to someone that you would never have the opportunity to speak to in real life.
For some reason or another I have always held a great amount of respect for Michigan. I started following Karl Welzein née @DadBoner just to get my lowest-common denominator kicks. With tweets like “Starbucks acts like they’re so fancy. You sell hot black water and muffins. Calm down.” and “Never understood why people count how many drinks they have. A real man drinks by body feel. More natural. Boozin’ ain’t math, you guys” I knew I had to met this man some day. By the time our series My Life Online rolled around I knew the man behind this satirical masterpiece would be perfect for the show. I looked online and saw that Ology and Deadspin had discovered that a comedian named Mike Burns was DadBoner, but Mike had neither confirmed nor denied if that was the case. I was intrigued. I saw that Mike was repped by Creative Artists Agency and did a cold call to the offices general LA number. In what only can be defined as sheer luck, I was put on a conference call with Mike Burns and his agent who then told me he would give me the DadBoner exclusive (whatever that means.)
When I met Mike outside his apartment in Echo Park he seemed tired and a bit rough around the edges. He eyed me warily as only a veteran of the comedy and entertainment world can. He smoked a cigarette and asked me what we should do. It seemed fitting that Mike was the man behind this gluttonous, out there twitter feed. Karl could say all the things that Mike wanted to but couldn’t say in his own voice (for fear of retribution). It later occurred to me that every one of us might have a Karl inside; Mike is just more wanton to let him out.
I traveled out to LA for Click. Print. Gun and Jerome LOL and, as it turned out, to have some drinks and get to know Mike and his crew. We watched WWE, drank some domestos (that means beer), and talked about the internet as it relates to comedy. I like to think of it as a tragicomedy.
Pretty much everyone in America, sans a “longtime fan” in Phoenix and (hopefully) Jay’s wife, Mavis, hates Jay Leno. That being the case, Leno-gate 2013 has definitely taken a toll on the Chinned One’s ego. Now, it’s finally official, and Jay is on the outs. No one has stood up and defended Jay’s honor, even though we all know what’s at stake. It appears the American public really is cool with letting that smarmy little Capital One spokes-shit Jimmy Fallon take over TheFUCKINGTONIGHT SHOW. Clearly we’ve lost our way, and our collective minds. Listen—Leno wasn’t voted “America’s Late Night Leader” for nothing, OK? What the hell has Fallon ever won? “Most Manchildest Saturday Night Live Cast Member (Ever Since Adam Sandler Left)”? I’m tired of y’all hating on Jay. If you think Leno hasn’t made the world a better place during his 20-something-year tenure at the helm of The Tonight Show, you’re out of your goddamned mind.
HE, NOT UNLIKE THE UNION, MAKES US STRONG
A few years ago, People magazine revealed that Leno consumes two (as in, more than one) chicken sandwiches from Johnny Rockets (as in, Johnny Rockets) for lunch every day. People didn’t publish this shocking revelation as part of a smear campaign against Leno—he willingly gave them this information. His lack of shame is admirable and something those of us who constantly live in fear of other people’s judgement should aspire to. Do I like Arby’s? Yes. Was I ashamed to admit that fact for decades? YES. Leno’s bravery, however, has made me embrace my monsterism. Fuck the haters. Pass the Horsey Sauce.
HE’S A POWERFUL SOCIAL CRITIC
With his recurring “Jaywalking” bit, Leno has shed some much-needed light on the rampant problem of Midwestern ignorance. I mean, lemme get this straight—nine out of ten Affliction-clad crackers can’t name oneSupreme Court Justice? No wonder this country’s going down the drain!
HIS FUNNY CARS ARE FUNNY
Every time one of his funny cars breaks down on the I-5, you know pretty much everyone who drives by laughs their balls off at his misfortune. Regardless of how you feel about Jay’s iteration of The Tonight Show, you’ve gotta admit the man’s bringing light and laughter to people’s lives in at least one regard. Unlike Jack Paar, who was deeply humorless and, in his spare time, beat orphans with golf clubs.
Editor’s note: There is no relation between this piece, written by our longtime columnist Jizz Jussinger, and the piece in GQ by Friday Night Lights Author and generally despised human being Buzz Bissinger about his “addiction” to buying ludicrously expensive Gucci clothes and accessories that’s cost him half a million dollars. Any similarity between Jizz’s article and Mr. Bissinger’s is entirely coincidental.
I have an addiction. It isn’t drugs or gambling; I get to keep what I use after I use it. But there are similarities: the futile feeding of the bottomless beast and the unavoidable psychological implications, the immediate hit of the new that feels like an orgasm and the inevitable coming-down. In the past few years, I’ve bought 81 graphic tees. Dozens of shorts, both board and cargo. My name is Jizz Jussinger. I am 58 years old, the author of Some Kids Play Football but It’s Complicated and Award-Winning, father of three, husband. And I am a shopaholic.
It started three years ago. I have never fully revealed it, and am only revealing it now in the hopes that my confession will incite a remission and perhaps help others of similar compulsion. If all I buy is Old Navy, I will be fine. It has taken a while to figure out what works and what doesn’t work but Old Navy men’s clothing best represents who I want to be and have become—a laid-back guy you’d be unafraid to call “dude,” a Yacht Rocker from a landlocked state, someone who would be good at surfing if he tried, probably. During a recent trip to the Navy, a fellow shopper said I looked like “Luke from The OC,” a compliment that at this point in my life means more to me than any piece of writing.
I own 124 polos, 75 sweaters emblazoned with Old Navy Athletics, 41 pairs of khakis, 12 track jackets, and 115 pairs of novelty-print boxers covered in pizza and beach balls and burgers and ducks. Those who conclude from this that I have a John Hughes fetish, an extreme John Hughes fetish, get a grand prize of zero. And those who are familiar with my choices will sign affidavits attesting to the fact that I wear polos every day. The self-expression feels glorious, an indispensable part of me. As a stranger said after admiring my look in a red-sleeved raglan and a pair of plaid cargos with flip-flops, “You don’t give a fuck.”
Ah, the Academy Awards! The four-hour event when the actresses, actors, directors, and producers who create the most popular artistic medium in the world are finally given their due. It’s a time for everyone to gather around their television sets and bask in a night of song, dance, jokes, emotion, and a celebration of films. Haha, just kidding! Like all major events where anyone talks for more than half an hour, it was a chance for people to get extremely angry about what others were saying and doing. Here is an incomplete list of the events that happened during the Oscars that people took offense to. (Some of these are serious things that you should get upset about and some are just some bullshit that you shouldn’t even think about; I’ll trust you to decided which are which.)
Robin Roberts not having hair because she has a rare blood disorder.
Lena Dunham (I don’t know if Lena Dunham was even at the Oscars, but it’s a safe bet that someone, somewhere, is always getting offended by Lena Dunham, and someone else is offended that that person is offended.)
Rob Ford, the World’s Greatest Mayor, Has a Terrible Photographer
Rob Ford is a sentient chunk of Spam and the current mayor of Toronto. He also happens to be VICE Canada’s favorite politician, formanyreasons. Unfortunately, Rob has been doing a mediocre job at engaging with the kids on social media, and we think we know why: his photographer is awful. While it would behoove the visually clueless political aide Rob has documenting him to read a damn book about the rule of thirds and proper focus, the damage has already been done. Above, you can see one of this photographer’s greater triumphs: Robbie sitting in a flashy McLaren whip, telling his haters that they can’t tell him nothin’. Unfortunately, save for this glorious photo that he has made his Facebook cover image, Rob’s Facebook page is riddled with unflattering portraits.
What the hell is this framing all about? Why are we looking at half of Rob’s rosy face and three-quarters of that seafoam-green vintage Caddy? Is Rob even interested in the Caddy? We could see Rob cruising around the city in this classy vehicle, blaring “Money Ain’t a Thang” and waving at all his gorgeous lady constituents, but please, ask the man to pose for a photo with the car. And what is Rob looking at, anyway? There’s probably something way cooler on the horizon that only Rob can see. Trust this man’s vision.
No! Come on! He doesn’t even have his eyes open and his skin looks like it’s made of bubble gum and ham. Look at the contrast between the shadow on his forehead and the harsh light striking his cheek. His hand looks like it was just stung by an entire wasps’ nest. Plus, he’s in front of some boring ancient vehicle that no one has ever wanted to take a photo beside. Why was this uploaded?
Union Beach, New Jersey, like much of the state, is a mess thanks to Superstorm Sandy. Its residents who are sticking it out and hoping to rebuild have to figure out a way to clear their lots of debris and condemned structures. Regular relief groups don’t provide aid for this kind of work, and contractors aren’t going to cut a break for flood victims. It has left an altruistic void, one that has been filled by a bunch of people who every year head out to the middle of a desert in Nevada to do a bunch of drugs, dress up like gay aliens, and light a bunch of shit on fire.
Yes, a small group of Burning Man enthusiasts have rapidly formed what appears to be an extremely efficient charitable organization that helps people in ways more bureaucratic organizations can’t.
What’s It Like Being a Stand-Up Comedian in Saudi Arabia?
Breaking into stand-up comedy is notoriously hard in Western countries where there’s an infrastructure of clubs and agents and laws that allow performers to say pretty much whatever they want. But in Saudi Arabia, where the notoriously oppressive government still uses beheading as a punishment and women aren’t allowed to drive, among other things, it’s nearly impossible to be a comedian. The country’s stand-up scene is “burgeoning,” to be kind, or “pretty much nonexistent,” if you want to be mean.
So when Ahmed Ahmed, the Egyptian-American comedian, was performing in Saudi Arabia in 2008 and the bookers wanted to find some locals to open for him, they had to hold auditions to find ordinary people who were funny enough to get onstage and tell jokes. An English teacher named Omar Ramzi got a Facebook message that said auditions were being held, tried out, and soon found himself in front of a thousand people doing stand-up for the very first time.
Omar stuck with comedy, and four years after his debut he had become famous enough to acquire a nickname (“the White Sudani”), made good money doing underground comedy gigs, and was featured on national TV and in the Saudi Gazette, an English-language daily newspaper. The catch was that despite being born and raised in Saudi Arabia, Omar had never received Saudi citizenship and was living illegally in the country thanks to a string of mishaps. After navigating the not-funny joke that is the Saudi bureaucracy, he eventually managed to flee to Cairo. I reached out to him through Skype to talk about the turns his life has taken.
VICE: So your nickname is “the White Sudani”? How did that happen? Omar Ramzi: Yeah. See, my mother’s Irish and my dad is Sudanese, and obviously most Sudanese people are dark-skinned, with African origins, but there is a small minority of white Sudanese that came from North Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, and places like that. My dad is from that small minority. We’re like the bluefin tuna of the human race—almost extinct.
What was it like growing up as part of that tiny minority? So, I was born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, but I lived a very different life than most people—I lived in a compound, which is like a gated community. There’s several of them all over the country. The one that I lived in was called Saudia City, which is for the employees of Saudi Airlines. They had everything: They had their own schools—American schools, British schools—medical centers, pools… It was like a little city where the rules of the country did not apply. Women could drive and wear whatever they wanted to. There were parties and alcohol. And just outside the gate, you would see women all covered up with the black [burqa], like all ninja’d out, you know? They were like completely different worlds.
When you started doing stand-up, you were doing it in that wider world of Saudi Arabia. What was that like? It must be a lot different from what I think of as stand-up in America. The thing is, in the West, heckling is part of the norm in stand-up comedy. In this part of the world they don’t know about heckling. There’s no such thing. People sit down and they will respect you, even if you suck ass.
Omar’s first show ever.
That must be nice. Yeah, but it’s a bit of a challenge because they had a lot of rules. You can’t use profanity. You can’t talk about the government. You can’t talk about the royal family. You can’t talk about religion. So what is left to talk about? What is left to make fun of? I ended up making fun of the students I was teaching English to. I’ll tell you one of my jokes. I was teaching them the difference between “to” and “too.” After like three weeks of going through it, I thought, They must finally understand. So I asked who could give me an example of the difference between the words.
[heavy Saudi accent] “Teacher, teacher, I have the answer for you, teacher!”
[normal voice] “OK, go ahead.”
“For example, teacher, the one with the one ‘o’ teacher: ‘I want to go to the supermarket.’”
“Oh, very good, good job. What about the other one?”
“Yes teacher of course teacher. For example: ‘I want to go tooooooooooooooooo the beach.”
So you know, things like that, things that everyone could laugh at and that weren’t insulting.