Louie, Ray, Judd, Aziz, Todd, and Judah

While in New York, I wanted to do one thing: See all the comedy.

I wanted to dive into sewers and gnaw on any semblance of tee-hees and haw-haws. I brought a book of comedy with me. I watched YouTube clips of stand-up comedians on the ferry between Manhattan and Staten. I would have made sweet, sweet love to great joke (if it consented).

That’s why I drove from Wisconsin to New York.

Stand-up comedy in New York–where people need it, as my Socrates of Comedy, Doug Stanhope, once said.

Everynight, my ladyfriend and I paid  a few bucks to sit inches away from my idols at the Comedy Cellar. We went everynight during the week. And during the week, this is a few of the weekday highlights:

Ray Romano (unannounced); Aziz Ansari (“I’m working on some new material, like this new Skittles bit.”); Judd Apatow (guy behind Freaks and Geeks, 40 Yr-Old Virgin, etc.); Todd Barry (whom I’ve seen multiple times, including his ballsy tour of pure crowd work, which was turned into a Netflix special and sold on Louis CK’s website.); Judah Friedlander (of 30 Rock fame); and others, who are still legends, but my fingers are sleepy.

ToddBarry and me

Aziz wore loafers and spoke my mind about relationships and Skittles. Judd included me in his banter/jokes about 3-ways. Ray Romano had a beard. Judah F. did . . . his hilarious thing, which is an odd mix of crowd work, jokes, and improv. (From my understanding, he is there almost everynight, performing comedy. If not there, Gotham.)

All of these TV images, suddenly, they materialized a foot away from me. At Comedy Cellar, if you’re front row, you are right there. Spit row. Two chairs a foot or two from the comedian.

For years, I’ve spent thousands on seeing every comedian I could. I have so many pictures with comedians I can’t keep track. Jeselnik to Doug Benson to Timmel to–you name her/him.

Then within a few nights, I was rubbing elbows with the Kings and Queens.

And they didn’t give a shit.

I’d followed these comedians careers from start to current. I subscribed to email lists, social media updates–anything and everything. And there I was, sitting at the bar upstairs after the shows. I ordered double vodka with lemons. At the table behind me sat Ray R., Todd Barry, Louie CK, and Judah F. HBO, Netflix–their stars. They just chatted about the mundane. I tried my best to be normal, like everyone else in the bar. The bartender said these guys and gals were here so often than no one paid them any mind.

“But have you seen Shameless? Have you read Judah’s book? Watched 30 Rock? Seen ANY of Aziz’s work? Parks and Rec? Any standup?”

The bartender shrugged. “It’s New York.”

I thought. Louie lived a few blocks away, according to the bartender. These guys did this all the time. The regulars.

Bartender said, “So we just leave them be.”

I nodded.

However, I wanted to meet Louie. Like a true tourist. Like a true idiot fan, I wanted to create a false reality via photography on a shitty phone camera. I wanted to come home and tell my friends.

But why?

I couldn’t work up the courage. My girlfriend saw Louie leaving. She noted it. I said, “Can you ask him for a picture with me?”

I couldn’t work up the courage to ask a stranger for a photo.

She gently tapped him on the shoulder. His eyes flitted to his SUV, which idled outside.

“My boyfriend is a huge fan. Would you mind?”

The comedian–oddly without his facial hair–looked to me. Then to my girlfriend. I could read his mind. What a weird dude. What a coward. Is this a murderer? Is this a–

Like his “character” on his eponymous TV show, he politely declined. “No. I’d rather not.” And he turned and walked off, shaking hands, nodding, and bro-hugging bouncers and fellow comedians who hung outside the Comedy Cellar’s doors.

I felt rejected. It was nothing personal. No doubt, he got the question incessantly. On a walk with his daughters–Will you take a pic for my Twittergrammingabook?

I understood it. And I felt the false relationship we had. It is and was one-sided. His jokes might resound with me, but he is not like me. He does not want to be. He wants to stay rich. He wants to raise his two daughters well. He wants to live normally, but instead of teaching or working at a factory, he delved successfully into a career that is personal and self-indulgent. That is a risk. A huge one. At some point, his daughters will see his early work, and the vulgar stories he told about them. And I’m sure they’ll take it in stride. After all, how can he hate on a dad who makes millions and is a solid father?

But here’s what the relationship was and is :

Business masked behind the extremely personal material.

“Listen to me. Thank you for money.”

But after a time, after the comedian becomes huge, the thank you is meaningless. A formality. Going to church on Christmas and Easter.

Must be, especially for guys like Louie. For guys like Jeselinik, whom I saw several times in Madison, WI before he had his TV show or his first comedy album. I have two pictures with Anthony Jeselnik. The third show I went to was massive. People screamed out his punchlines before he did. And if you know his comedy, timing and attitude is everything.

His success killed his own show. His fans ruined his jokes.


When I had my girlfriend ask Louie for a picture, was I contributing?


I put him and other comedians on pedestal on which they don’t belong. I’ve heard negative things about him from other comedians. I’ve heard about this and that about this comedian and that comedian. And part of it is probably true. At some point, you are no longer the struggling comedian. You’re the celeb. You’re the actor. You’re not like your fans anymore. Louie even says in one of his specials, “I’m not like you.”

And he isn’t. No. He and they aren’t. But that’s okay. It takes a lot of self indulgence and promo to get there. They earn it. But really, why do I care about a guy who looks like he works at UPS or a cheese factory?

I am deluded by media.

I allow myself to fall in love with anything I can relate to. It comes in waves. One week, I love a novelist. Then, a musician. Then, a comedian. But these artists, they are just UPS workers whose work is amplified because they sense they are different; because they sense they have a unique view. It partly is a vainity thing, without a doubt, and I think that is obvious with the influx of neurotic comedians and writers (Jonathan Ames, Marc Maron, Larry David, Richard Lewis, etc.). They are obsessed with and love themselves. And when a fan connects, it is a one-way relationship. Then the money pours in (maybe and eventually), and bam! You got a fella or gal creating a TV show around themselves.


Me. Me. Me.

But practicality means turning down the fans that pay your rent. And I get it.

But here’s my thought:

I’m going to break free.

Screw Stanhope (although I ordered and will read his newest book the moment it was announced, before it had a title). Screw Louie. Screw them all. They connect with me. But why am I sending my love? That is their job; connect with dolts who live non-traveling, non-million $ lifestyles. So, why am I doling out $80 to see jokes that’ll be on Netflix/HBO in a few months?

One-sided love.

Like a creepy lover.

Every move you make.

I’ll be watching you.

Nah. I’m done with that.

I love these jokes. These falsified personalities. But I’m done trailing them online; I’m unsubscribing and detaching from them. I’m done cowering in their sweaty shadows.

I’ll pay to see your show.

But that’s it.

I will thank you internally for what you’ve contributed to my life. But you’re just a fraction of it. Just like I (and all your faceless fans) are slivers of a fraction of your income. Without us, you’re nothing. And for that, I’m certain you comedians are thankful. You must be. But you’re people. We’re people. Why in the world am I having my girlfriend ask a middle-aged, overweight comedian for a picture? It is not like the red-head and I made a connection; at best, if I had gotten the pic, he would be irritated. Is that what I want?


Like Zeus and other fictional creatures, I’ll appreciate my idols from a distance. If they come around, I’ll probably cough up the cash to see them. My love for comedy is too huge. But beyond that? Get out of here. Big-Name Comedians, you’d say the same.


I’m still collecting those comedian photos. They are still my idols.

Bill Burr–who will never read this–one day I shall see you live. I’ve watched your most recent Netflix special several times, and I have laughed-out-loud again and again. And for that, what can I do but thank you. You do what you’re great at. And when I go to the gun range (rarely), I can’t help but think about picking a .22 rather than a revolver.

Note: I just forked over $200 for Louie tickets for a few of my friends and myself. I really want them to experience live comedy.$200 won’t kill me, and it won’t make a difference to Louie. He probably lights cigars with that elusive $200 bill with Aaron Burr’s photo on it.

Makes me wonder. Ever have a run-in with a celeb? Comedy or otherwise?


Louie, Ray, Judd, Aziz, Todd, and Judah

11 thoughts on “Louie, Ray, Judd, Aziz, Todd, and Judah

  1. Kyle Malzhan says:

    The 4 Musketeers Meet Mike Stud

    Most people, including yourself, probably doesn’t know who Mike Stud is. Well Mike Stud, formally known as Michael Seander was a right handed pitcher for Duke University. He was one of the bigger named prospects coming out of High School on the East Coast. He topped off his fastball at 87 MPH. When he pitched for Duke, he posted the lowest ERA in school history. He was a big thing at the time until one game when he blew out his arm. He had to get Tommy John surgery. Every pitchers worst nightmare in baseball.

    During his recovery from his injury, he turned to music. Which led him to be an internet sensation over night. So there went his baseball career and he turned to rap music. All my friends and I listen to him in our cars and jam out to him. Mike lives the ultimate life every guy dreams of. For the past 5 years he’s been on the road making music, partying, getting women.

    Well his new tour this past year called Back2You was coming to Madison. My friends (Nick, Tyler, and Jose) & I were going to see him and meet him, no doubt. We’ve been saying this for ever. So we bought VIP tickets & we got a hotel room down in Madison to stay over night. When we got there to meet Mike Stud, every one was super nice and easy to talk too.

    The 4 guys in front of us that we were talking too drove from Iowa. They were telling us that they go to school on scholarships of the “Upper Iowa University Peacocks”. Sure enough, they showed us everything to believe them and even had a shirt with a peacock on it and it said “Cock Power” to give to Mike Stud. Great guys and made the whole experience funnier.

    When we got close to Mike Stud, he was everything we thought he was going to be. Girls having him sign their boobs and butts. Basically that is every show for this guy. He just lives the life. The guys in front of us that we were chatting with bought him shots at the bar to our left so they all took shots.

    When we got up to him, My friend Jose went first. Mike Stud recently got a girlfriend, who is a model. Her dad played in the MLB & you may know him, Jose Canseco. Big power house bat for the Oakland Athletics. So when my friend Jose went to meet Mike Stud, Mike asked what his name was. Jose goes “Jose….. just like your girlfriends dad.”. In a savage way he said it and Mike Stud laughed and shook his hand.

    When I met him, He shook my hand and we talked baseball for a good two minutes. He wanted to see the Blue Jays vs Cubs in the World Series this year. He also wanted to meet Kris Bryant too, who I met last year. He also asked what my favorite song of his was. Unlike some celebrities I’ve also met, he may have been the most sincere and nice. Didn’t just say hi, take a picture and to the next person. He actually took the time to hold a decent conversation for the time he had.

    When we all met him, it was definitely a bro moment. We were talking about this for awhile and then it happened. Worth the $100 & he also put on one hell of a show. A lot of energy and it was more of a party it felt like rather than a concert.

    During this whole tour as well, he’s shooting for his 1st season of his new TV Show that going to premier in June. So when we met him we had to sign a wavier to be on his show. Well, after the concert there was a TV crew outside of the venue & Nick pulled my shirt and said “This guy can.”. Not knowing what was said before, the TV crew asked if I could rap. So this guy beat boxed and I rapped 16 bars while the TV crew was filming and I had to sign another waiver on an iPad. So hopefully that makes the show.

    It was a great night with great friends. One of those times you can tell for years down the road.


    1. Nice. That’d be so cool to make the cut. If not, just having the experience is worth having and writing about.

      Also, I love it when the famous/rich are down-to-earth and are actually engaging you. You can totally tell when someone isn’t listening or they don’t care, and it pisses me off. It’s like, “I give you money. You’re successful because of people like me. Just give me a few minutes of your time.” So, glad to hear this guy was a real human.


      I hope I flip on the tube and see you in a segment of the show. That’d be awesome.


  2. Great post Dan. The biggest guy I saw doing stand-up was Dustin Diamond. You may be too young to know that he is from Save by the Bell. In other words- no celebs for me. However, I have a big collection of books by comedians- from Bob Hope to Larry the Cable Guy to Phillis Diller to Chris Rock.


    1. Oh, God. Screech. It’s like when Bob Saget started doing stand-up, and it was totally dirty and perverted, which was completely opposite of Full House and America’s Funniest Home Vids.

      It’s odd: When I see Screech’s face, I get an urge to punch. Just punch in general. Anything.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Exactly like Bob Saget. Diamond was very crude, but sort of funny. I remember when he had a campaign to save his house from foreclosure- he screwed people over. Evidently wanting to punch something is a common reaction to his face.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Nicole says:

    I related to what you said about the creepy relationship with celebs. I follow Mindy Kaling and Olivia Munn religiously on Instagram and like every photo and just wish one day I will run into one of them to make awkward small talk. I feel like we could be friends but from their perspective “The girl is no one.” I read that people with little social life/styles tend to be attracted towards celebrities. I don’t recall the source but I wonder if that’s true. Sometimes I feel like I care more about what Chance Rodgers (Olivia Munn and Aaron Rodger’s dog if anyone cared) is doing than my grandma… That’s pretty pathetic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To be fair to your grandma, she can’t do a lot of the things that Chance the Dog can. Chance can roll over. He can jump, shake, and probably boogie. I feel like Munn and Rodgers have the $ to pay a trainer to train their pup to boogie. Like, just a little ass-shake.

      I connect a bit w/ some of the female comedians because for so long, they have been underrepresented, and there is finally a huge presence, and it’s interesting to see things a bit more from their perspectives, such as Amy Poehler, Amy Schumer, Sarah Silverman or Tina Frey’s (and others).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am an avid follower of Alison Rosen. She was a funny part of the Adam Carolla Podcast until he fired her in a bad way. Stopped listening to Carolla and kept up with Rosen. Rosen has a segment on her show called Just me or Everyone (Does everyone do this or is it me?) I get pretty excited when she reads one of my #JMOE. Here’s one that did not make the cut, but tweeted to her- #jmoe. Try to see how difficult the drive thru order of the person ahead of me by how dumb face looks in rear view mirror How’s that for no social life.


  4. Renee says:

    The summer after my freshman year, I got to go see Panic! At The Disco in Milwaukee. They were my favorite band at the time, I listened to their albums on repeat for like a year and half. My best friend got me the tickets, and every single day leading up to the concert, I couldn’t sit still. At this point in time I was really into heavier music and thought that it “wasn’t a phase”. Which, turns out, it was definitely a phase, a pretty bad one actually. But anyways, we get to The Rave and try to get the best spot possible. We managed to get a place in the middle, but not too far back. Walk The Moon played first, and they were so amazing. I really regret not buying a shirt or something from their tent. Then after 2 hours, Panic! was getting ready to come out. And as soon as the lead guitarist walked out, everyone just ran to the front. It was like a stampede. My best friend had to grab onto my hand, since I was 2 feet shorter than everyone there. We get a little closer to the front after that, but everyone was just so close together. You know how on Snapchat if you take a picture you can see the temperature? Yeah… I did that and it said 103 degrees. So the staff started handing out water bottles so people don’t start to drop dead, and Brendon Urie was throwing some, and I swear to God I caught one of the ones he threw. Hey, maybe not, but it’s nice to think that I drank from a water bottle that my idol (at the time) held for 3 seconds. And that’s my closest experience with someone famous.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The time I met Bob Suter. I was a peewee hockey player and we had a basket raffle going on during one of hockey tournaments. The had all sorts of prizes but one of the prizes was a game worn Nashville Predators Jersey signed by Ryan Suter, Bob Suter, and Gary Suter. They didn’t have the jersey at the tournament because it was not sent in the mail correct so we had to go get it. The person that got the jersey is one of my dad’s good friends and cousins with bob suter. So he called him up and said you can come and get it in Madison Wisconsin or I can try to mail it again. We decided that we would drive down to Madison and pick it up on that coming Saturday.
    So that Saturday comes around and we drive down to Madison where we meet Bob at his hockey shop. We walk in and were just talking and stuff and he says to me would you like to see my gold medal that I won in the 1980 Olympic games so he gets it out of his safe and puts it around my neck. What I thought this was super cool because honestly how many people get to wear/hold an actual gold medal. I gave it back to him and said it was really cool and he handed me the jersey and that was awesome too then we left just the experience and being able to wear and hold a gold medal was really cool. The Jersey is now framed and hung up on my wall in my room what will be there for awhile.

    Liked by 1 person

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