Saturday, November 30, 2002

I am in Florida. I flew here, against my better judgement, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

I haven't seen my family in over a year. There's a (hundred) good reason(s) for that. But that's a whole other universe of blogs.

I get in on Tuesday night and of course, the first thing I do is try to get a spot somewhere on stage. Even before hug my mother. The next thing I do is realize it isn't easy to find stage time in Tampa, Florida. I went to the Tampa Improv on Wednesday night where the Homegrown Comedy Show is going on. I introduced myself to the manager and gave the show's emcee a tape. This show is noteworthy for the following reasons:
1) Homegrown is a lesser used word for 'sucky'
2) In the hour that the show takes place, I hear no less than 13 jokes I've heard on tv or read in joke books being told by comedians who didn't write them or purchase them
3) They won't let me do any time on the show because it's an evening of professionals, a special event

The five comedians on the show are mediocre at best, except one guy, Johnny B who is pretty decent and by far, the best one. He is endearing the audience to him, he is friendly, sweet, loveable, the funny fat guy. The hostess Renee is interesting. She insists on coming out barefoot, she looks like a man I used to be afraid of when I lived in Maine, she drinks and smokes on stage (in one hand) holds the mic with the other. She abuses the men in the audience and comes onto them in an evil and uncomfortable way. They can't help but resist her. She's polished in a way that says she has been doing stand up for a very, very, VERY long time.

The other comedians, and I use the term comedians loosely are just painful to watch. One of them 'shows his ass' as is put by a local, which in Florida means to act like a real idiot, but I know it as pulling down your pants at a person or group of people with the intention of getting a laugh from your buddies who are egging you on (also known as mooning someone), so I am confused until she explains it to me. One guy tells Stu Kamens old set verbatim. Stu is an NYC comedian who got out of the business about ten years ago. I think he's fucking prostitutes in Amsterdam on a bed stuffed with marijuana right now. Still another guy gives the audience the finger, talks shit about a previous comedian's set, gets into an awkward verbal altercation with a woman, bails his twenty minute set at 4 minutes, 13 seconds, and makes a beeline from the stage with his fist for a wall. Wow.

I go to speak to the bartender. I tell him I gave the emcee my tape. He warns me not to trust the emcee and recommends I get my tape back and give it to the manager. I do, and then quickly leave, but not before I see a separate comedian punch a wall inches from my face.

Over the course of the evening, I hear the phrase, "My husband was just released from jail" way too many times.

The next day is Thanksgiving and I eat my face off.

Friday, Gary calls me from the Tampa Improv and invites me to do a guest spot on George Wallace's show. I am totally thrilled and immediately commit.

10:30 PM, the Improv is packed. There've got to be 500 people there. Gary is the house MC and he tells me he is going to bring me up first. I am confident. I am certain this is gonna be awesome. I can just imagine the back pats and high fives I'm gonna receive when all this is over. I do notice the audience is mostly older black folks and white grandparents with their grandkids, but I'm ready for them. First, I'll do my pedophile joke, that one always gets a laugh. Then it's on to bulemia and then hating animals. This shit is gonna be fucking great.

I bomb at hello. I don't know what happened. The best part of my set is when some greasy Tampa cowboy tries to heckle me and I embarrass him and his two blonde bims. I take the winning heckle ticket as my big closer and get off the stage. 3 minutes, 28 seconds. I make a beeline with my fist for the door. I'm especially glad to know my sweet little sister cancelled her evening of hanging out with her boyfriend and had to see her big sister tank.

Gary greets me on my way out. He says, "Good jokes, wrong crowd." I feel like maybe he's right, but a good comedian can make any crowd laugh, right? "Don't feel bad," he says. "These people don't like New Yorkers. Marc Maron bombs every time he comes here, too." Strangely, it doesn't make me feel better. It makes me feel like serving my own bowels to myself, fresh from my guts. Somehow I muster a smile and a thank you, and slither out with my sister, embarrased, following behind me.

I get home and my mother tries to make me feel better. She says, "Aw, honey. Maybe you should think about your jokes. Maybe try to lighten up a little. These people are scared of jokes about gay people. They think bulimia is sad. How about if you tell them about how I made you take tap class in clogs? That's funny. Maybe you can tell them about the time dad cut his thumb off with the ax, or your first pap smear."

I fall asleep in front of the fire, thinking about how to change my act by 6:00 tomorrow evening when I am scheduled to perform at my Uncle's auction.

Thanksgiving day, my Uncle calls. He says, come perform at my show! I'll pay you! I want you to do comedy! It'll be fun! He puts my picture up on his website! Jessica Delfino! it says. Writes for MTV! She's been on Good Morning America! it says. My big fat face, smiling! Headshot! $150 from! "Sure" I say. "No problem! Sounds like fun."

I arrive on Saturday at the auction, 5 pm. The crowd looks identical to the Improv crowd, but with even less brains than teeth, and lots of information for eachother about rims and predictions on the football game.

My Uncle comes over to me. He says, "Jess. I'm really glad you're here. Here' s the rules."
1 - No swearing.
2 - No dirty stuff.
3 - No sudden movements or breakdancing or anything like that
4 - These people are old, don't do anything to offend them. Stand stiff if you can. Don't move your arms.
5 - I can't pay you in money. I'm going to pay you in collector's item Dairy Queen glasses and a box of paperback books.

My grandparents have come out to see me. They have completely opposite ways of teaching me, showing me they love me. My grandfather all my life has verbally noted what a great ass I have and tells me the same dirty jokes over and over again; my grandmother speaks completely in parables and hugs me a lot. My twelve year old cousin is there, too. He's wearing his favorite Korn tee shirt. He give me a lot of harsh criticism and pulls my hair. I think that means he likes me. I wonder if I should be flattered that I totally have a chance with my cousin?

My Uncle gives me a grand introduction. These people are old, scary, and they all drive trucks. They are not going to like my jokes. They are not going to like me. I don't know what to do. I tell a few jokes about growing up in Maine. I stall. I talk to the guy in the front row. I get heckled by a guy wearing a plaid shirt eating a hotdog. My grandparents laugh at everything I say. My Uncle paces nervously. My cousin raises his hand and asks when I'm getting off stage. People are bidding on my failure. Then, somehow, miraculously, I start to get them. The minute my defeat settles in. I get them. They start laughing. I'm confused. Maybe my mom is right. Maybe I should pander. Maybe I should die. Maybe I should get back into graphic design. I have a degree. I know Photoshop. I know all about typesetting. Florida isn't so bad. Maybe I could move here and work for my mom's paper. Maybe I could just sublet my new apartment and find a rich guy down here and marry him, squeeze out a few fat babies, get old, get sick, get menopaused, get on social security, get whatever.

It seems like as soon as I feel like things couldn't get any worse, they break. I guess the moral of this story is, "every cloud has a valuable pewter lining" or "don't judge a box of paperback books by their cover" or "timing plus tragedy at the auction equals comedy".

On the ride home, I say to my grandparents, "I just don't know what to do. I don't know what I'm doing wrong." My grandmother says, "Oh, honey. Seek, and ye shall receive." Then, she kisses me and pats my shoulder. My grandfather says, "Did you ever hear the joke about the .50 cent prostitute?" I realize, right then and there, that all along, there has actually been deepness and meaning to his dirty jokes. Look what you're doing, he's saying. Doing this dirty business with dirty fornicators for going on two years. Up there, spread eagle. Telling filthy jokes, selling sex, selling your history and your future. Giving it away, practically for free. To anyone and everyone.

My grandfather is trying to tell me. I am the fifty cent prostitute.

I consider this for thirty five of the fourty minute ride home. Finally, I answer.
"Yeah, I've heard it, grandpa. But tell it again."

Friday, November 22, 2002

"Misfortunes, as is well known, seldom come singly." -Milan Kundera, "Immortality"

I've been having a lot of bad luck this week.

SUNDAY: I lost my favorite green hat, which was the perfect size for my head. It was an army green 'gay biker style' cap. Worst, I think I left it on a subway seat, so some homeless guy is wearing it or collecting change in it right now, as we speak.

MONDAY: Then, I lost my cellphone. Luckily, though, I found it. But for two days I felt like I'd forgotten my name. I left it in my friend's car, which indicates to me that I have trouble remembering to take things with me when I get out of things that are taking me places.

TUESDAY: While I was trying to straighten my hair, I picked up the straightening iron by the iron and not the handle. That was my own stupidity showing it's teeth. I didn't scald my hand, but it did scare me, it hurt a little bit, and I dropped my straigtening iron on the ground which couldn't have been good for it. You may think that doesn't sound like a big deal, but my hair looks terrible not straight. What kind of life would I have with out a straightening iron? 'Iron' ically, I learned about straightening irons from a female friend of mine who is jewish.

WEDNESDAY: I tank at the Boston Comedy Club in front of my friends. I drink a shot of tequila and get sick on the cab ride home.

After that, my friend broke her toe. Now you may be thinking that has nothing to do with me, but it does. I care about her, and that includes her toes, her shoulder, her knees, what have you. Plus, her foot's all casted up so she couldn't come out to co-host the show with me. I wanted her to do a set over my cellphone placed near the microphone, the same cellphone which I found that I'd left in my friend's car, but she nay sayed. She said she didn't want to bomb from far away. I can understand, and relate.

I'm not jewish, I'm italian. That means if you date me, you get all the benefits of dating a nice jewish girl (the religious under layer that leads to intense sex and neurotic behavior) but for half the price.

WEDNESDAY STILL: My mom INSISTS I fly down to Florida to visit for Thanksgiving which I don't want to do for a cavalcade of reasons (afraid of flying, don't get along with family too well, hate Florida, lots of old people there, fear old people, old people smell, hate the idea of being sandwiched in between two strangers breathing that wierd canned air in a flying ticking time bomb for two and a half hours, hate going places, hate the idea of smelling old people, just moved into a new apartment, want to decorate it, like to stay put, afraid of flying, planned to lose weight over the holidays which is not going to happen if I'm participating in Italian family holiday celebrations, so I might as well forget the whole losing weight thing because once the eating frenzy has begun, there's no stopping bathing suit season comes back around and I feel ashamed at what I've done to my body all the cold while, and did I mention I'm afraid to fly?) But I'm a good daughter who will never achieve the level of approval I'd like to have from my family, so I log on to and look up cheap flights to appease her, thinking there'd be NO WAY I could find a cheap flight just 6 days before I planned to leave, and lo and behold, there was a very cheap flight within the Thanksgiving timeframe, but I know my mom and there's no way she has any money on her credit card. "Honey, I don't know if I have enough money on my credit card," she says. "YES!" I whisper to myself. "Let's try it, but I don't think it's gonna work." "Come on....not gonna work!" I say out loud. "What?" I remember my mom's on the other line. "Fuck, I'm sorry, mom," I say. "I'm watching the races on tv. I'm betting on a horse named, Not Gonna Work." So she reads out the numbers to me one by one, but not before asking me if I'm sure the server is secure, and but am I sure seven more times before then moving onto the quiz part of the process, a) how do I know it's secure, and b) when I say "I just know", how do I know? I get the information from her which is the opposite of pulling teeth, it's like putting teeth in the spaces between where teeth all ready are. Isn't that neat? I have to beg my mom to give me the credit card number to a credit card with no money on it so I can travel in a way I don't want to to a place I don't want to be. I get them, and type them in slowly, then read, please wait while we process your card. Hey, take your sweet time. Take forever. And it does. Things are looking good, it's taking too long, I can almost taste the "Sorry, you have insufficient funds at this time" page. But FUCK ME, it comes up instead with CONGRATULATIONS! Your flight has been booked. Then, I die a million deaths. My mother is so happy. "Oh, that's so great! I'll see you soon! I can't wait!" I love my mom. I'm looking forward to seeing her for Thanksgiving. I'm getting on a plane for her. That's the most sincere form of love I can offer.

THURSDAY: At the Believe Chicken show which I co-host, it's just me running the wagon. Liz is sitting at home, eating chips, probably with her 'broken toe.' She's got her casted foot up on the table, watching tv and thinking about how glad she is she didn't have to drudge down town in the rain. I'm running what actually, for once, happens to be a pretty decent show. A Comedy Central rep stops in as well as some people from a casting company and a booking agency. The line up is really great - Leo Allen, Demetri Martin, Lenny Marcus, Danny Cohen, Marianne Sierk, Abby Scott, Phil Ledo, The Haskell Twins, Rusty Ward, Nancy Lombardo, Chris Jurek, and a new guy I've never seen before who wants to do three minutes. Sure, I'm drunk, and why the hell not? I tried something new tonight where I play little songs in between the comedians on my purple electric guitar, to polite laughs. The biggest laugh I got all night was when Lenny called to me while he was on stage, and asked me what my goal, my dream as a comedian is. "A sit com?" He asks. I say "I would just like to be funny, eventually." The audience laughed, but what I want to know, is - Is that a case of laughing at or laughing with? Anyway, I got bored of guitaring in between songs and sort of just told jokes for the last few acts, thinking I'll pull off a grand guitar finale at the end. The last comedian, who's name I mispronounced as Michael Swallowy, does his three minutes and gets off the stage. I get on the stage holding my guitar, and he trips over the wire that is plugged from my guitar into the amp which I bought with my hard earned money, $220 of my hard earned money to be exact, which I didn't even have to spend when I spent it, and the amp lands face first on the ground. Having just experienced an auditory explosion of screeching and feedback, the audience is appauled except a few who are laughing. It's like the scene from Better Off Dead where Lane Myers scratches the chalk across the chalkboard and everyone's hair stands up straight. The time of the night has come for me to approach the realization that my amp is broken, and since I don't want to cry in front of my friends, I laugh, too.

When I go outside, it is raining, and I don't even have an umbrella. It's as if God or ghosts or the rain itself is telling me, "You know the drill. When it rains, it pours."

FRIDAY: I plan to just stay home all day today. Unfortunately, I have a feeling bad luck knows where I live.

Interesting end note: Que mal lastima is the only piece of spanish I remember from three years in highschool. That and abre la ventana.
Which I plan to do, just seconds before I get pushed out of it.

Monday, November 11, 2002

Running a show every week is hard work. If you want an audience, you have to promote the show. I'm not a promoter. I'm a comic, using the term comic 'loosely.' I have compiled an e-mail list of about 1000 names which I send one (1) email out to every week. I used to send two, but I decided one is enough. Now granted, I did put most of the names on the list without actually asking permission from the people, but I assumed no one would care, it's just an email, and it's a great show.

In the two months that I've been sending out this email list, I've gotten straight up HATE mail regarding being removed from the list. People have threatened the children I don't have now and never will, people have called me names, people have verbally assaulted me and my intelligence which is none of their business, and have otherwise just been really nasty. Don't get me wrong, the people who are supporters of the show are really nice. But the others are just, well, retarded.

It's funny, because they always begin with hello.


REMOVE ME!!! REMOVE REMOVE REMOVE!!! I hate your stupid chicken emails, You are a witch! DIE! DIE! DIE!

Jane Smith
Director of Childrens' Services
The Kindness Society
917 482-2868

Normally, it's common knowledge - if someone wants to be removed from an email list, they only have to write and ask, and then they are removed. However, when people start to get nasty, I say why be the bigger person? I have a special knack for being small minded and petty. I've managed to hide it away, but when I receive letters like this, it draws it out of me

REMOVE!!!!!! your constant unsolicited emails
are irritating!

Now, why? Why does it have to be like that? Let's give your letter a little face lift.

(Please) REMOVE!!!!!!

What's with all the other crap? No need to get personal, cunty.

Hey, just in case any of you naysayers are wondering, here's my take on it:
YOU are irritating ME with your stupid 'remove' requests.
PS. Don't YOU email ME anymore. YOU take ME off YOUR list!

This kind of treatment prompted me to send out this email on my Believe Chicken emailing list:

The Believe Chicken Promise:

We promise not to remove anyone's email adress from the E-mail list,
ever, even if they ask. That's the Believe Chicken Promise.

In recent months, a hand full of wack jobs and crack pots have
requested to be removed from the Believe Chicken E-mail list. We aren't sure what
their problem is. Maybe they hate their fathers. Maybe they don't know what
the future holds and they are scared. Regardless, requests to be removed
from the Believe Chicken E-mail have been considered, and then not honored.
Though this is probably illegal and may even technically be considered
cyber-terrorism, BC has stood with conviction by this promise. We
feel, once you are in the Believe Chicken system, you are in for life.

If you insist on being removed, we will consider your request, too, but
not honor it. Just do the following.

If you are interested in being removed from the list, be sure to
include ALL of the following:
-a letter of request for removal
-two forms of ID (valid)
-a head shot (in duplicate)
-resume (current)
-time, date, season, reason, and a word that rhymes with season and
reason and how it relates to you not wanting to be on the mailing list
-birth certificate (original copies only, we can not and will not even
try to accept photocopies)
-one (1) five minute tape of you saying why you would like to be
removed from the BC list. Try to be as expressive as possible. (*VHS format
only, please!!!*)
-an MP3 of your favorite song (the song better be good)

Materials can not be returned, even if you send a SASE. As a matter of
fact, make sure to include a SASE. We can not make a promise to honor
anything ever. The only promise we can make is to NOT honor any
requests. At Believe Chicken, like Roq, we keep our promises. Thank you.

13th St. and 2nd Ave. Manhattan
EVERY THURSDAY 7-9 PM (Happy Hour 6-8 PM)

MCS: Jessica Delfino and Liz Laufer



And super special surprise drop-by guests who you're gonna wanna see!!!

Be there. Believe Chicken.

**CONTACT US AT: or We're
waiting to hear from YOU!**

And you know something? After sending out that email? I realize the whole thing is kind of silly. It's not a big deal. So what? People are rude without warrant and verbally attack me on a daily basis. That's what being a stand up comedian is all about. But just for the record, I'm not going to take any crap. Suffer the hard way, losers and Believe Chicken enemies. That's right. Now you're gonna have to hit delete.

Sunday, November 3, 2002

Last night I stayed up all night long to get a good place in line on the All New Star Search auditions. I tanked. So bad. But on line, I did pretty good.

I got to the line around 4:30 am. I was about 40th. Valerie Gurka was about three people behind me so we hung out and kept eachother company until the sun rose. Then some of her friends arrived with blankets and energy around 7:30. By energy, I do not mean cocaine, and by blankets, I mean 'warm cloths' that you drape over yourself to retain heat. Only three comedians were in front of us - Tarun Sheddy, Pete Glissman and Jane, a comic from Connecticut who's last name I forget. Everyone else was a singer or a model or a line space holder or a homeless person. The whole night and into the morning, every one was singing, practicing their songs. Do singers have snappy lingo for the few minutes or so when they go 'up' where ever and sing a song? Do they call it a set also? Or do they just call it a song? They probably just call it a song.

They, and by they, I mean the Star Search people came outside around 8 and started handing out bracelets that color coordinated each talent. Comedy's bracelet was colored green, which I found to be somewhat ironic - but not too ironic - just ironic enough to be a slight bit more than slightly interesting to me. Slight squared. Ironic divided by two. The line started to move forward which was very exciting after standing still for three and a half hours. I decided I should try to muster up some energy from somewhere after standing still in the freezing cold with no sleep for hours as I'd been doing. So I started to sing. And sing did I. I sang Chaka Khan, Guns N Roses, Rick Astley, and much, much more. And every thing I chose to sing for some reason was a huge source of entertainment and amusement to everyone around me. I was delirious and feeling stupid and bold, so I really began to play it up. I jumped up on a lamp post and hung singing from it, like a chimney sweep child in some movie about being poor that takes place in old England. That began attracting attention and before I knew it, I had a camera man taking all kinds of pictures of me swinging and hanging from this lamp post. And the crowd below was laughing and smiling, and waving at me and I was a hero of the people.

Then I went inside and ate my balls in that little room in front of D.J. and J.T., the two judges. It was pretty messed up the way they did it. They brought the comedians ten at a time into the little room, and the comedians took turns both auditioning and being an audience member at an open mic no one had signed up for. All the comedians who went on were people who I actually knew from doing open mics around NY, many of which could probably tell my set verbatim, they'd heard it so many times. Not only did the comedians not laugh at my jokes they'd heard or not a bunch of times, the judges didn't really laugh, either. I totally bombed. It went something like this: (They asked us to open up with our name, where we're from, and an interesting fact about ourselves.)

Hello, my name is Jessica Delfino, I'm from Damariscotta, Maine, and I'm 26. But I'm reading at a 28 year old reading level. (sprinkled laughter)

I'm not a vegetarian, for two good reasons. First of all, I like the taste of meat. But even more important, I really hate animals. (crickets, air flowing, the sound of people breathing, I heard someone swallow a gulp of water)

"Spin the bottle" joke went here. To this, I got frightened pity laughter from the judges. I actually heard one telepathically send a message to the other that went, "A pedophile joke on a television audition?" Then he went on to telepathically talk about lighting me on fire to destroy all evidence of me ever having been in the room. I think if someone wanted to press it, technically, either judge could have gotten fired just for having shaken hands with me, and are probably receiving hate mail as we speak for even allowing me to breathe the same air that was being used by the future stars of tomorrow.

The rest is a blur of bombing. Not even my poker straight hair or funky Chess Forum tee shirt could have saved me. When I was finished, one judge bum rushed me and held me down and the other washed my mouth out with soap and demanded back the 90 seconds of his life I'd taken from him. I told him I'd write him a check. But I never will. Even if I did, it'd bounce.

The judges left the room to talk in private and I actually heard one say, and I quote, "Jessica Delfino should be sucking dicks, not telling jokes." I was feeling fine with that, then he added, "And, she's not funny." When they came back in, they said they only liked one person's act, and that person was Tarun. He had the best set by far, heads and tails above. Funny, clean, good. Good energy, charming, not shy, funny. Good. When they said his name, I felt so happy. I gave him a hug and kiss which almost ruined it for him when the judges saw him associating with me. Then we left and had breakfast together at the Cosmic Diner, just a few seats away from where Jordan Ruben's photo hangs on the wall.

I learned a few very important things from this experience. One is that I am tired and cold. The second is that I have to poop.

Now, I could have made up all kinds of excuses. I was tired. I was cold. I had to poop. I went up in front of comedians. Many of them had heard my jokes. Boo hoo hooey hoo. But the fact is, I'm just not that good yet. Tarun was solid. He did not drop the ball. I've still got years of disappointments and blown opportunities to look forward to before I can call myself a 'good' comic, and even with time and hard work, I may never be 'good.' I guess I'll have to wait and see. Or make it happen. Or a little bit of both.

I mean, am I right, people?

People? Hello? Is this thing on?