Jeffrey Loria Is The Real-Life Rachel Phelps

The Miami Marlins have made a splash (get it?!?) this offseason, signing closer Heath Bell to a 3 year, $27 million contract, shortstop Jose Reyes to a 6 year, $102 million contract, and lefty starter Mark Buerle to a 4 year, $58 million contract. That $102 million they’re giving to Reyes is more than the entire Marlins team has made the last two years combined. And, as if all that weren’t enough, the team isn’t done yet, with huge contract offers to Albert Pujols, CJ Wilson, and Prince Fielder still being mulled over by the players.

The question everyone is asking is, how do the Marlins, who have perennially had the lowest salary in all of baseball, suddenly have so much money to throw around? The answer is simple: They’ve always had it. Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, who made his fortune as an art dealer, isn’t the richest owner in baseball, but he’s still ridiculously rich. Despite his wealth, he’s chosen not to spend much money on the team. In 2006 the Marlins’ team payroll was just under $15 million, which is less than several other Major League players made that season, including Alex Rodriguez who was paid $25 million that season. So, why has Loria suddenly decided his team was worth spending money on? Because Jeffrey Loria is the real-life embodiment of Rachel Phelps, the fictional Cleveland Indians owner from the movie Major League.

For those of you who don’t remember the movie, and if you don’t, seriously?, Rachel Phelps, a former Las Vegas showgirl, inherits ownership of the Indians when her husband dies, and she purposely fields a weak team as part of a scheme to drive attendance low enough to trigger an escape clause in the team’s stadium lease that would allow her to move the Indians to Miami. Frankly, the fact that she wanted to move the team to Miami is one of the least relevant similarities between Rachel Phelps and Jeffrey Loria.

Like Phelps, Loria has a bit of a questionable past. When he sold his first Major League team, the Montreal Expos, his ownership partners sued him for racketeering, arguing he bought the team with the intent to move it and then, failing that, devalued it to the point that the MLB was forced to by it as a last resort, while Loria absconded to Miami with the Marlins. The Marlins won the World Series in Loria’s first year as owner, which was something of a fluke since they were such a young team, but since then the team has been mired in mediocrity, in no small part due to their low payroll. As part of the MLB’s revenue sharing plan, teams with higher payrolls, like the Yankees and Red Sox, are forced to pay a tax which is then turned over to teams with lower payrolls, like the Marlins. The money is supposed to be spent to better the team, improving competitive balance around the league, but Loria has been accused of pocketing the vast majority of the considerable sums he’s been given over the years. Most recently, Loria and the Marlins are under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, who believe there were some underhanded dealings involved in making the Marlins’ new $634 million stadium a reality.

The new stadium is where the real similarities between Phelps and Loria take hold. Immediately after buying the Expos, Loria began to talk publicly about how the team couldn’t viably operate without a new stadium. He certainly had a point, as the team did eventually move to Washington, DC, but, after buying the Marlins, Loria started singing the same tune. Again, he had a point, the Marlins’ attendance has been consistently well below the league average and their nearly empty, cavernous stadium is repeatedly the brunt of jokes about ill-attended events.

It took him two teams and two countries, but Loria has finally gotten his wish, a state of the art stadium, replete with a fish tank behind home plate.

It’s been argued that Loria is suddenly willing to open the purse strings and sign premium players like Bell, Reyes, and Buerle because he’s suddenly going to be rolling in cash from the new stadium, which is sure to draw crowds, not just because of its newness, but also because of its more convenient proximity to downtown Miami. In reality, Loria’s Phelps-like scheme to produce a team so bad that it would be forced to find a new home finally came to fruition.

Loria had money to spend on his team’s payroll, and he was getting money from other teams to spend on his team’s payroll, yet his team consistently had one of the league’s lowest payroll. They also had some of the worst attendance figures in the league, so it would make sense that they didn’t have a ton of money coming in to spend on their payroll. And that connection, low attendance equals low payroll, is exactly what Loria was banking on, except he was working it from the opposite end, i.e., if you consistently put a team with a low payroll on the field, they’ll likely perform poorly, and fans don’t often come out in droves to see poor teams, meaning attendance will be poor, which will prove his point that the team can’t survive in their current stadium.

Essentially, Loria wanted a new stadium, and the only way to make that happen was to have a team that was so bad nobody would come see it. He purposefully limited his payroll, not signing free agents, trading away players when they started to earn real money, in an effort to keep the team bad. Not convinced? Then let’s talk about Joe Girardi.

Girardi, a longtime Major League catcher who won a number of World Series rings with the Yankees, manged the Marlins in 2006, the year their payroll was less than the $17 million a year the team is about to pay Jose Reyes each of the next 6 years.

Despite the laughably low salary, Girardi kept his team in contention for the Wild Card right to the end of the season and won the National League Manager of the Year award. How did Loria reward his good work? By firing him. That’s right, instead of being happy about Girardi performing a miracle, he fired him right after the season was over. Fortunately for Loria, he and Girardi got into a very public fight that August, which meant he could fire Girardi and only look like an egomaniac and not like an evil genius with an intricate plan to extort a new stadium out of the good folks of Miami. Loria’s firing of Girardi after his surprising success if reminiscent of Phelp’s claim that if the players she got weren’t bad enough, she’d get rid of them and get ones who were.

The man who replaced Girardi, Fredi Gonzalez, led the team to winning seasons in 2008 and 2009, when the Marlins had the lowest payroll in baseball, and in 2010 became the Marlins’ all-time winningest manager. For that effort, he too was fired.

Loria’s efforts over his time as the Marlins owner have been focused toward getting a new stadium, purposefully sabotaging his team with pathetically low payrolls while firing successful managers, and it’s only now that his nefarious end have met their means that he’s willing to open his considerable pocketbook and financially improve his team. There’s little doubt that the people of Miami will flock to the Marlins’ new stadium, not only because it will be a gorgeous place to watch a game, but also because with the bevvy of new players the team will be highly competitive, but, with Loria, who went out of his way to make life as a baseball fan in Southern Florida miserable, poised to gain a windfall from the increased attendance, they’d be better served to hold fast to the disinterest and apathy Loria has cultivated over the years.

And, if you still need proof that Jeffrey Loria is a bad guy, these are the Marlins’ new uniforms:

Hecklers Gone Wild!

I’ve been doing stand-up comedy for right about four months now and I’ve been fortunate enough to have never been heckled. A few friends have joked that they were going to come to my show and heckle me. My response was always the same: “Don’t. I don’t get paid. I will jump off stage and kill you.” For some reason none of them have shown up at a show. Well, it turns out that’s not true, because if I was ever going to jump off stage and kill someone it would have been at this show last week, and I didn’t.

The night started off odd as around nine o’clock, when the open mic at 37th and Zen usually starts, the club was empty. And I don’t mean empty like sparse, I mean there were literally four comics, four employees, and 1 customer. Two of the comics left, understandably so, leaving just me and the host, Tim “The Big 44″ Loulies. It was looking like we weren’t going to get to do any comedy, since there’s not much point playing to an empty room. We hung out for a little while and a group of about ten of my friends and friends of other friends showed up, along with some other random folks and comedian Derek Williams. Since we now had an audience, we decided we’d put on a show. Of course, then we couldn’t get the microphone to work and had to get Traylor, the only employee who knows how to work the audio stuff well, and just generally a cool dude, to come and set it up. We started around 10:30, a full hour and a half after when the show is supposed to start.

Because of the late start, lack of comics, and generally loose atmosphere, rules were kind of off for the night and everyone was allowed to do their material for as long as they wanted, or until they ran out. 44 started things off great as usual, but lost everyone a little with his political humor, which is a shame because his political stuff is incredibly funny. I think people are just dumb. (Which is mean to say since most of the crowd was made up of my friends, but come on guys, that stuff was great.) Next he let a guy named DeWayne go up and sort of talk extemporaneously about not having a left leg anymore. The guy was kind of funny in the way that drunks amputees are sometimes. I didn’t realize it until today, but later in the evening when I tried out a newer bit about a woman with no arms asking for a fork nobody laughed because that guy had gone up and was still at the club. I get it, but that’s stupid because I know the stuff is funny. Again, people are just uptight.

After that guy 44 forced my good buddy Travis Jones to go up and I’m glad he did. I first started doing stand-up because Travis said he’d do it with me, but he’s only gone up three or four times. He was very, very funny, especially his material about dating and strip clubs.

It didn’t happen much during Travis’ set, but at some point during the guy with one leg’s time, a couple of guys sitting at a table in the back of the room started talking loudly, interrupting the show. Mostly the bigger of the two, a guy who was about 6′3″ 250 plus pounds, was the one being disruptive, constantly repeating “Oh baby” as the people on stage were saying things. After Travis Derek Williams, who had already performed once that night at a different venue, came up and went into his stuff. The guys in the back became more bold and started directly addressing Derek. You could tell it was throwing him off his game a little, but he did a great job of keeping his composure, talking back with them a little, but mostly ignoring them. At some point during Derek’s set 44 went over and issued a challenge to the loudmouths: If you think you’re so funny get on stage. It’s a common challenge to hecklers, because most of them are cowards who just want to piss all over a show from the back and would never get on stage, but these two actually accepted his challenge. Unfortunately, this did nothing to quiet them and they did their best to disrupt Derek’s set.

Once Derek finished his material, 44 invited Christian, the bigger of the hecklers onto the stage. About a minute after he started talking I realized, not only was he drunk, but he was probably also on cocaine. Other people have guessed he was high on Red Bull since he mentioned it several times, but I’m pretty sure it was Columbian gold. He proceeded to flutter about the stage in a non-stop salvo of nonsense, basically muttering to himself as we all watched him with dead silence. About halfway through Travis told me to start recording it, so I have some of this fool’s time on stage that you can watch:

It’s worse than it looks because that went on about twice as long. It’s also worth mentioning that early in the set he was pulling out the contents of his pockets in the worst attempt at prop comedy ever. At one point he pulled out a couple of bullets and placed them on the table on stage. It was pointed out later that this should have been the cue to usher the guy out of the club, but really nobody could have been expected to think he was anything more than some drunk idiot with a few bullets and a phone charger in his pocket.

After he got off the stage 44 let his little buddy, who couldn’t have been more than 5′2″ tall, go up. I recorded his set too, but it’s not even worth watching. All he really said was “Norfolk sucks,” which is not only untrue, but also not funny. After him, 44 let a drunk girl, who apparently was the guy without a leg’s girlfriend, go up with her friend Deaf Nate, who is, yes, deaf. The hecklers started up again with their “Oh baby”s but it didn’t phase her since she was just drunkenly rambling.

So this is what I get to go up after, about half an hour’s worth of coked up drunks and a ventriloquist show with a drunk girl and a deaf dude. Needless to say, the room is not primed for comedy at this point. I made my first mistake with how I started the set; I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I can remember everything I said, but basically I commented on how fucked the night had gotten and how much it sucked that I had to follow the coked up dudes from Night at the Roxbury. I think I would have been fine right there, but then I kept going and asked if they didn’t have a drug deal to get to and leave us all alone. That’s when the big guy started yelling stuff at me. I can’t even tell you what. I know he kept saying I was fat, which was dumb because not only was he as fat as me, or fatter, but the beginning of one of my jokes was “I’m fat” and he kept talking about my shirt, which had an x-ray of a dog with a bunch of school supplies inside of him (the dog ate my homework…). Oddly, earlier in the evening when I had walked by him he seemed to love my shirt.

He stopped jawing at me for a little while and I got to do some jokes, most of which were going really well. I was throwing out every one of my jokes I could remember and a few new ones, which went over really well. But, douchebaggery always wins out in the end and the guy had to start talking again. This time I just put the mic down by my side and let him talk for a while before going back to my material. I won’t lie, that shit was distracting and it was pissing me off and from that point on I really wasn’t doing well. And, like I said, I tried to do amputee jokes whith an amputee in the room, which will probably never work out well. 44 got the guy to settle down for a little while and even though I wasn’t feeling it anymore I had to keep going since the audience was basically all there for me. And when else am I going to get unlimited time for stand-up?

There’s something I’ve noticed about drunk people: You can say something to them at one point in the night that will roll off of them at the time, but hours and hours later, for no reason whatsoever, it will suddenly piss them off and they want to fight you over it. Well, I think that’s what happened with Christian. Out of nowhere in the middle of a joke he jumped up out of his chair and started yelling at me. He was calling me all kinds of names, I can’t remember what specifically but I’m sure they were really intelligent and poignant, and telling me if I had such a problem with him I should come fight him. Again, I just dropped the mic and let him talk, which must have pissed him off more because he proceeded to stalk angrily toward the stage, informing me that he was a greenbelt in some form of martial art nobody has ever heard of and that his cousin was Somebody Van Halen. Not Eddie Van Halen, the one you’ve heard of, but some other Van Halen. Not that it would matter if it was Eddie Van Halen, cause that had nothing to do with him acting ridiculous at a bar.

So he runs up to the front of the bar and keeps yelling at me, telling me to get off the stage and fight him. Honestly, I wanted to fight him. Even more honestly, at about three different points in trying to do my set all I wanted to do was set down the microphone, run to the back of the room, and kick his ass. But, I’m an adult. Adults don’t get into fights. If adults do get into fights they go to jail, or at the very least have a bunch of annoying paperwork to fill out.

Now, at this point, nobody had moved. This guy was right up at the edge up the stage yelling up at me and everybody is just watching him. A few of my best friends in the world are sitting a few feet away happily watching as a crazy man stalked toward me and confronted me. Thanks, guys. Christian makes an attempt to grab the microphone out of my hand, to say what is anyone’s guess, but I easily swiped it out of his reach. This caused him to make a fellatio gesture toward my crotch, which was right at his eye level, and say, “I’ll talk into your microphone.” I could spend the rest of my life pondering it and I’d never figure out how he thought threatening to suck my dick was an aggressive gesture.

Now is when 44, Traylor, who is built like a mac truck, and Bradford, the club’s manager, who is built like the opposite of a mac truck, jumped in front of Christian and corralled him away from the stage. This other guy, who I’d never met, and later found out was named Keith, jumped up on stage with me, looked at me and said, “I got your back.” I kind of dumbly nodded, but in my head I was thinking, “Who are you? …I love you…Don’t leave me.”

The intervention only pissed Christian off more and he decided that everything wrong with the world was my doing. As the group pushed him out, with little Bradford in the front doing most of the pushing as he yelled for the bartender to call the cops, he continued to salvo me with insults and baseless challenges. While they were getting him and his friend to leave I wandered over, put the mic back on its stand, and took a seat on the stool at the back of the stage, watching the action and shaking my head.

When they came back, without Christian and his little coked up friend, the crowd cheered for me, with Traylor loudly shouting my name to egg them on. It was very flattering but all I wanted to do was get off stage. They wanted me to keep going, so I did a horrible rendition of my Helper Monkey joke, which is one of my favorites and usually fun to do, before basically running off stage.

So I went from never being heckled to having a guy try to fight me on stage. It’s like losing your virginity to Megan Fox; it’s way too much to handle for your first time. 44 later asked me if I was scared, and I had to honestly tell him that I was nervous because the situation was uncomfortable, but I wasn’t scared, because I knew the guy wasn’t going to hit me. If someone is going to hit you, they do it, they don’t talk about it or tell you to hit them. That’s what coked up pussies do.

This story has become a little bit of a local legend in the last week, but I’m sure once something else more interesting happens nobody will really remember it but the folks who were there. Of course, there were very few people there, so maybe it won’t be remember at all. And anything worth doing requires that you keep doing it, so I got right back on the horse the next night at Cozzy’s and killed, while talking a little about this experience:

Crowd Favorite

On Wednesday I went to what has become my weekly ritual, Hilarious Hump Day, 37th and Zen’s comedy open mic. After doing poorly last week, I was committed to not sucking it up this week and things went very well:

I’m getting more comfortable on stage; I still feel nervous as hell before I go on but now when I’m out there I don’t even think about it. I think the routine and the material this week were a lot closer to what typical stand-up is, because I covered a lot of different stuff, and I was pretty pleased with my transitions from one thing to the next. I think the biggest thing is that I knew my material better this week than I had before, which doesn’t make sense since I just wrote it all this week like I had the rest of the weeks, but whatever, I’m not knocking it. Also, the past few weeks I’d had what I was going to do printed out and I’d taken that on stage and when I felt stuck I tried to look at all that and find my way back. This week, I still had the whole thing printed out, to help my preparation before I was on stage, but I also had an outline with highlights to remind myself of the jokes and I looked at that when I got lost and it worked a million times better.

So, being comfortable and knowing the material went a long way to doing better, and I was rewarded at the end of the night by being named the crowd favorite. Of course, a huge portion of the crowd was made up of folks who were there because of me, but whatever, I was still funny. So I have to thank my folks who came out, Elizabeth, DeWayne, Kristina, B-Done, Michael, Katya, and, of course, the best bartender ever, Stephanie. She had a Diet Coke waiting for me when I got off stage!

Like I’ve said, I don’t know how long I’ll do the stand-up thing, but it’s nice to feel like I’m getting better at it, and like I’m understanding better what works and what doesn’t.

Comedy Is Hard, Bombing Is Easy

Well, I’m very new to the whole stand-up thing, I’ve only gone up five times over the last four weeks, so I’ve still got a ton to learn about it. And one thing life has definitely taught me is that you learn more from failure than you do from success. A couple nights ago at 37th and Zen’s Hilarious Hump Day Open Mic, the open mic I’ve been going up at every week, I failed, and I learned a lot. Here’s the video:

When I was up there I thought I was doing terribly; I was uncomfortable, didn’t know my material that well, and didn’t feel like the audience was really responding. But, only two-thirds of that is true. I didn’t know my material that well, which made me uncomfortable and unsure of myself and led to me giving up. Sure, the audience wasn’t responding exactly how I’d want, but that’s all part of the stand-up; if you’re funny enough, if you’re on your game, if you know your shit and are delivering it well, they’ll laugh how and when you want them to. The reason I sucked in this set, and the reason I sucked in the other set a week and a half ago at New Belmont, is I gave up on the set and let myself suck.

I don’t know how long I’m gonna keep giving stand-up a try; I’m not sure I see it as a long-term thing that I want to keep doing, I don’t know that I’ll ever feel very comfortable doing it. But, I do think it’s something that I can be good at, I’m funny and smart and there’s no reason I can’t be both on stage and make folks laugh, so there’s no reason for me not to do the best I can at it in the time that I’m doing it. So this was a good lesson and one I’m going to take to heart. It’s hard to keep plugging away up there when people aren’t reacting the way you want because it really is all cyclical, you feel better and funnier and everything flows better when people are with you and laughing. But, in classic catch-22 style, it all starts with you being comfortable and funny. If I get off stage and feel like I sucked I want it to be because I didn’t make people laugh, not because I was unprepared or unsure of myself or because I gave up.

And, as always, I have to talk about how awesome the other comics are. They’re ridiculously supportive and they really want everyone to come out and do a good job. You can see in the video when I wasn’t doing well some of the other comics were trying to help me out and when I gave up and left several of them made sure to tell me I did better than I thought and not to give up. All this makes it so much easier to get up and try at something that’s incredibly hard and I can’t begin to say how much I appreciate it.

Great, On Paper Writer’s Vlog Day 43 (February 24)

Great, On Paper Writer’s Vlog Day 42 (February 23)

I’ll Never Become A Millionaire This Way

Yesterday a rare copy of one of the most important comic books in history, 1938’s Action Comics #1, which features the first appearance of Superman, was sold for a million dollars.

Action Comics 1

Neither the name of the buyer nor the seller were revealed, but apparently both are well known and respected in the rare comic collecting world. In fact, the buyer had previously bought another copy of Action Comics #1, but for a lesser price because it was graded at a lower number. The grading process, on a scale from 0 to 10, is used for all kinds of collectibles, from comic books to baseball cards, and takes into account the quality of the item, it’s wear and tear and how it has held up over the years. The book sold yesterday was an 8, which is extremely rare for a book that old. Comics back then were produced in much smaller number and rarely taken care of, so to find on in what is considered “very fine” condition after eighty-two years is nearly impossible. And to have one go on sale is just as rare, which is likely why the buyer was so willing to pay such a steep price, in fact, the highest price ever paid for a comic book.

When I started writing this I almost called Action Comics #1 one of the rarest comics, but that’s not true at all. Off the top of my head I don’t know of more rare ones, but it would only makes sense that there are. Like I said, fewer comics were produced back then and they were rarely taken care of by their owners. The only reason a book like this one ends up in any kind of shape today is because it has Superman in it. I’m sure there were all kinds of comics with completely forgettable stories and characters, basically anything without super heroes, that, if found at an 8 grade today, would be much more rare than Action Comics #1, because there wouldn’t have been much interest in keeping them in good condition. More rare, but not more valuable though, because who really cares about some detective story or horror story compared to the first appearance of Superman?

No, what makes Action Comics #1 so valuable is that it introduced the world to the super hero. There were several attempts at making heroes that we would today consider super heroes, including The Phantom, one of the few from that era that lasted at all, but none came close to breaking the kind of boundaries that Superman did. He was the son of another world, truly unlike anything anyone had seen before, with more powers than he knew what to do with, and he completely changed the hero archetype. A year later Batman appeared in Detective Comics #27 and the super hero age was in full swing, as slews of heroes debuted one week after another.

While I do think that owning a copy of Action Comics #1 would be cool, it’s not the kind of thing I’d ever pay big bucks, or even small bucks, for. That’s just not how I like collecting. I collect baseball cards, but I only care about getting the ones that I can get signed. I’m simply not going to pay more than a dollar for any card, because it’s not worth it. I want to get the card to have it signed, not to just keep and look at. I guess to somebody who doesn’t collect, there’s not really any difference, but when you get a card signed you have an experience with it, you get to meet the player and have an interaction, something that doesn’t happen when you just own something. Even when I collected comics, from when I was 9 until about 15, I didn’t care about having or getting anything valuable, I just liked the stories. The reason I’m a writer now is because I loved reading comics, I liked how the stories worked and I knew that’s what I wanted to do. Kind of ironic since I’ve never even attempted to write a comic book.

As someone who still has all the comics he ever bought, and still has them in outstanding, if not mint, condition, this story about a comic selling for an huge amount only frustrates me, because I know I’ll never be able to get anything for my collection. Yes, I loved reading them when I did, but now, well, I’ve read them and they just take up space, so I’d love to be able to get rid of them and get something out of them. Unfortunately, that’s just not possible. For the last 20 years people have believed that things like comics are valuable, so they’ve made a point to take care of them, to keep them pristine and thus more valuable. Of course, this is in opposition to the reality of why an old book like Action Comics #1 is valuable. It’s only worth a lot because so few of them were maintained in good condition. So if all modern comics are taken care of, they’re basically all worthless. This is made even worse by the fact that the comics companies produces millions and millions of each comic, making the likelihood that any of them will become rare even more remote.

A few years ago, when we were about to make our first failed effort at making a movie, I looked into selling my comic collection, hoping to be able to fund things. I collected for six or seven years, mostly X-Men and all the various X books, and I have some huge runs of various books, including the first 75 or so issues of the newer run of X-Men that started in 1991, with all the various cover permutations and all. But still, when I looked around a little, I found folks who had my entire collection and more, usually older, better stuff, who couldn’t sell what they had, even at prices that I thought were ridiculously low. The reality is, none of us are getting rich off our comic boos unless Doc Brown shows up in his Delorian and takes us back to the late 30s.

As sad as this is, I don’t feel cheated by my comic collecting days, mostly because I never really believed they’d be worth anything monetarily. I was reading to read, and I still get comics, though mostly only in graphic novel form, to read them, because I love the medium. Frankly, investments of any kind have always struck me as being a foolish prayer and I’ve always thought that if you can find immediate enjoyment out of the things your ostensibly collecting you’re much better off than the folks who are hoping for the day when all that pop culture junk is one day valuable. So if you’ve got some old comics sitting around in mylar bags, open them up and read them, if you’ve got some Starting Lineup figures still in the box, open them up and place them on your window sill, and if you’ve got some original Star Wars figures still in the package…well, some things are actually valuable.

Great, On Paper Writer’s Vlog Day 41 (February 20)

More Stand-Up, And A Little Bit Of Crouching

I made my fourth attempt at doing stand-up last night at 37th and Zen’s weekly open mic and I think it went pretty well. This is the third week in a row I’ve gone up at 37th and I’ve posted the video each time. I actually went this past Sunday and did a set at an open mic at New Belmont but it was pretty rough. As I found out, apparently New Belmont is a very tough place to do stand-up, people just don’t seem very interested. Consequently, it’s not a great place for a beginner and I didn’t do very well. There’s a video from that performance, but I kind of doubt it will ever be seen. But, here’s the one from last night:

First, we’re back to the fairly poor video quality again. This time my friend Liz taped it for me and I guess she didn’t get a good focus from the start. It didn’t help either that my other friend Ashley was in front of her and the camera was auto-focusing on several things the whole time. But, as I always say, it’s not her camera and she was awesome enough to video it for me so she’s under no obligation to make it perfect. You can hear me and you can see me well enough to get the performance, so if that’s not good enough, well, you’re kind of a jerk.

I’m definitely getting more comfortable on stage; I still feel like I want to throw up before I go on, but that’s getting a little better and at least now when I’m on the stage I feel somewhat comfortable. Anyway, I don’t feel my legs shaking as bad. The last two thirds of this set were mostly what I did on Sunday so it was nice to see they actually are funny and it was the situation on Sunday that hurt me. This is the first time I’ve done something a second time on stage and I definitely see why people do the same jokes again, you get better by doing them repeatedly. Still, I want to make sure I’m doing mostly new stuff as much as I can, if only because it’s forcing me to write and to try to be as fresh and funny as possible. My friend Stephanie, who works at 37th actually thanked me for doing different stuff each week; she said she’s gotten a little tired of hearing the same stuff from the same comedians each week.

And again, as far as the other comedians, those guys are awesome. They’re so inviting and open and supportive and it really makes you want to come back and keep trying.

It’s also worth noting that Travis went up and performed both on Sunday and last night. On Sunday, well, there’s no other way to say it, he was not good. And it wasn’t as much a function of the setting as it was of him forgetting to actually tell any jokes. He did the same stuff last night and actually remembered to tell jokes and it went a lot better. I took a video of his stuff but he’s too much of a wuss to let me put it up. Maybe one day.

Then What Does The ‘M’ Stand For?

The other day it was announced that MTV is changing their logo, removing the script “Music Television” that has been below the iconic MTV pretty much since the channel’s inception in 1981. (I always find it interesting that MTV is only a few months older than I am.) The new logo is basically the same old logo, just cut down a little:

MTV logo

Apparently MTV has just know figured out what the rest of us have known for the last decade, and possibly longer: that they don’t show music videos any more. In fact, they have almost no programming whatsoever devoted to anything even remotely related to music. I guess by removing the “Music Television” from their logo MTV is saying they’re through the lie that they’ve become and they’re going to fully embrace themselves as the purveyors of, mostly, reality television. Yes, the horrible trend that started in the 90s with The Real World and Road Rules, continued to be blight on the world with The Osbournes and The Hills, and finally jumped the shark with the inexplicably popular Jersey Shore, has finally taken over the network that was once the most cutting edge thing available on popular TV.

For me, this is the ending to what has been a sad transformation. I gave up on MTV a long time ago, but it’s still sad to see something that was so vital to my teenage experience morph into an unrecognizable mess. MTV was beyond innovative, and what made it so likable was that they did something nobody else did, played music videos. As a kid, the great thing about MTV was that they played videos literally all day long, so you could just put it on and have it playing while you were doing whatever it was you were doing that day to entertain yourself. It didn’t matter if the video currently playing wasn’t something you liked, because you knew that in a few minutes something you would like would be coming on. I was watching the first time they showed the Thriller video, in its original eleven minute long version; it’s not only the greatest music video ever made, but, despite the fact that he transformed into a degenerate pervert, it featured the coolest person on the planet, Michael Jackson.

With this new MTV format great things like that will never happen again. The channel used to have shows devoted entirely to genres of music, and none was better than 120 Minutes. Every Sunday night you could sit and watch videos of up and coming rock/alternative bands and know about the next big thing before anyone else (or so was the thought, really you’d know about them roughly the same time as the other million or so viewers). Every huge name band from the late 80s and early to mid 90s was shown to the world for the first time on 120 Minutes. I’ll be honest, without a show like that, I know I miss out on a ton of great music. Sure, it’s all out there in the world for me to find, but I’m just not that savvy, I need a little help.

Not only is it sad that there haven’t been any videos on MTV for years, but the stuff they’ve been replaced with is awful. I’d rather have someone poke my eye with their finger for six hours than have to watch a half hour’s worth of current MTV programming. The stuff is just terrible; it’s a collection of assholes, bitches, crybabies, spoiled brats, and, well, assholes and bitches. They never show anyone likable, intelligent, funny, or interesting, and they never show anything that has even the slightest bit of redeeming value. Now, I’m sure that there was plenty of crap on back when I was a more than regular watcher of MTV (pretty sure I already mentioned The Real World and Road Rules), and I know it reeks of errant nostalgia to say “things were better in my day”, but the fact is, it’s true, MTV not only had it made with all the videos, but they had truly original, often brilliant programming as well.

There were a number of live action shows that were great, including the admittedly awful but undeniably enjoyable Undressed, but the cream of the crop was the sketch comedy show The State. Not as well remembered or beloved as The Kids In The Hall, though often just as irreverent and hilarious, The State was one of the most innovative and, frankly, weird sketch shows ever and it launched the careers of a number of comedians who would later create such shows and movies as Reno 911, Role Models, Stella, The Baxter, and, surprisingly enough, Night At The Museum. The show had the kind of talent and entertainment and complete lack of regard for convention that is just absent from current television. Here’s a great example of the show.

But where MTV really used to shine with original programming in the old days was with their animated shows. Long before Cartoon Network came up with their Adult Swim concept MTV was perfecting adult oriented animated content with series like Liquid Television and Bevis and Butthead. Aeon Flux is one of the most visually stunning cartoons ever created and as a viewer in my early teens the subject matter was so far ahead of my knowledge that it was nearly incomprehensible. It’s a show I’d love to watch again and see if I could understand because I’m fairly positive that the content was as intricate as the artwork. Here’s the opening credits, with the super cool fly in the eyelashes thing:

Another cartoon that was visually amazing, it changed animation style depending on the naratorial perspective, and ridiculously ahead of my time was The Maxx. As a fourteen year old watching this show I barely had a clue what was going on, but I was positive it was worth watching. I always had the sense there was a lot going on in the show that was never explained and it turns out (as I learned through some research) that that was the case. There were all kind of subtextual issues that might have been explained if there had been a second season. Still, The Maxx was an fantastic show and, like Aeon Flux, one I’d love to watch now as an adult. Just the preview for the show if fairly stunning:

This change of focus for MTV is sad, but it’s also sort of a non story, since the network’s ability to create interesting programming faded out over a decade ago. It hate to be the old fogey dousing everyone with nostalgia, but any time you’re forced to examine the demise of something that was an integral part of your personal experience, that’s just bound to happen. I guess now that I’ve gotten all this off my chest it’s time to wonder what exactly the ‘M’ in ‘MTV’ stands for now.