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Tough Getting Laughs After Pickle Licking

I did a show for five people last night. Thankfully they were a good little group and everybody had fun. One of my biggest laughs came from a practiced ad lib. It’s a line I came up with on stage one night and I break it out whenever the situation merits. I was surprised when my prepared joke, “I saw this guy on the side of the road with a sign that said ‘will work for food’ so I gave him a coconut,” got such a good response. So I said, “Sometimes that one gets nothing. You people are good. Per capita, best audience ever.”

Inevitably after a show like last night somebody makes the observation that it must be tough doing comedy for such a small audience. I like to tell people that I like a challenge (another practiced ad lib). Although last night’s show was more of an exercise in being silly than anything else (five people and the show goes on…really?), I do love a challenge. There is a element of danger in doing stand-up that makes getting laughs such a thrill. Generally the more of a challenge, the bigger the thrill. The most thrilling challenge of my career came back in 2009 when I brought my show to the Legendary Buffalo Chip Campground for the 2009 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. There was plenty of people to witness my potential failure on stage at that world famous venue and there were many who expected I would.

Below is another excerpt from my mini-memoir  about doing comedy at the 2009 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. From The Big Risk by Dwight York. Copyright 2009 all rights reserved.

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Soon after that lonely set on the Sam Kinison Stage, I finally found an audience; though they hadn’t gathered to listen to me. I was scheduled to do a twenty minute set before the start of a bikini contest on the Bikini Beach Stage. The contest was being sponsored by the Hedonism all-inclusive (but clothing optional) resorts in Jamaica. Hosting it were the resort’s two entertainment directors and by the time I arrived, they had already taken the stage. Apparently these experienced showmen had their own idea of how to best ready the crowd for a bikini competition. With Reggae music blasting and several couples on stage competing in an audience participation contest (most sexual positions mimed in ten seconds), the charismatic hosts had the crowd whipped into a frenzy. As the game ended and the couples left the stage, one of the hosts asked the audience if they were ready to meet “the beautiful and sexy contestants of the bikini contest.” The crowd went wild. Then the stage manager walked up to the host and said something in his ear. “Our lovely ladies will be out soon,” he was forced to announced, “But first we have a comedian.” All together, the entire crowd groaned. The loudest gasp came from me.

Though the bikini contest interruption was the most awkward introduction of my career, the one I was given later that night for my big debut on the main-stage was arguably worse. At least the guy from Jamaica had made it clear that I was a comedian. I’m guessing that the main-stage emcee didn’t feel it necessary to hype me much. He probably figured he wouldn’t know me long. Hank Rotten Jr. had hosted the main-stage festivities at The Buffalo Chip for the last twenty-two years and though he’d seen a lot of entertainers come and go, he had yet to see a comedian return. His introduction for me was simple. In his Southern Missouri Hillbilly drawl he told the crowd, “We have a surprise. A comedian. Dwight York.” Hank ran these words together so quickly that I could barely make out what he said. And I was sober.

I had a few decent crowds in the days ahead, but mostly it was comedy hell. Though I was fully aware that trying to do comedy on the secondary stages would be challenging, I’d assumed there’d always be people partying and hanging around. That was another mis-assumption. In the late afternoons and early evenings; most folks were relaxing back at their campers or out motorcycling around. It wasn’t until the main-stage activities began that the crowds began to build. That limited my audience to those gathered to watch the daily contests; the bikini competition being the classier of the two. My new friend Hank Rotten Jr. had graciously invited me to go up after the contest he hosted every afternoon. It was called “Pickle Licking” and you can guess the rules. This didn’t attract the most sophisticated of crowds; nor the classiest of competitors. I watched in fascination – on two separate occasions – as one of the contestants made a great show of first removing her teeth. That’s a tough act to follow.

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This August 5-13, I will be returning to the Buffalo Chip where I will be headlining the Buffalo Chip Comedy Club (indoors and air conditioned). It’s the best comedy club anywhere because it’s at “the best party anywhere.”

Joe Hurley: My New Best (facebook) Friend

Thanks to the power of the Internet and my new blog I have a cool (and famous) new facebook friend. I have acquired other cool (and famous) facebook friends in the past, but this is the first time I received the request. It came with a very kind message too. It is these little triumphs that make the struggling and starving artist part of being a comic seem worthwhile.

Joe Hurley narrated the audio book Life by Keith Richards. I wrote about it last week (see previous post). Life won the prestigious Best Audio Book Of The Year; 2011 Audie Awards. Hurley accepted the award (Life won two) at the ceremony in New York City. “Helluva joy ride” is how Hurley described the privilege of narrating the Keith Richards autobiography. “Helluva joy ride” is how I felt listening to him read it.

Just how good is Hurley’s narration? Jimmy Vivino (band leader/music director of the Basic Cable Band on TV’s Conan) put it perfectly. The voice in my own head was never this hip. It’s Keithian to the tenth degree! Even after reading the book I can go back and listen to Joe again and again… poetry.

Someday I would like to narrate an audio book too. Mine. I spend most of my free time writing. It has become my passion. Almost an obsession. Although writing provides me with a certain amount of joy, it also fills me with dread. Is the toil and frustration worth the effort? Maybe I am just wasting my time. I pour my heart into my new blog and I wonder if anybody ever reads my words. Thanks to a message I received last night, I know the guy who narrated Keith Richards autobiography (with Johnny Depp) has.

I need to get to New York City. I would like to meet Joe Hurley. I would love to hear his band play live (he fronts two: Joe Hurley & Rogue’s March; Joe Hurley & The Gents). Plus I have a few questions for Joe. Have you met Keith Richards? Are you guys friends? What’s Keith like? Maybe Marc Maron should have Joe Hurley on his podcast. Maybe Joe Hurley should do a podcast and interview Keith Richards himself. Somebody should. I bet Joe’s got good stories too.

LIFE by Keith Richards: Best Listen Ever // Marc Maron Should Get This Guy on His Podcast

TalkBooksWorld.com LIFE Takes Audie Award May 24, 2011: New York based pop singer and songwriter, Joe Hurley, who narrated the critically acclaimed “LIFE” with Keith Richards and Johnny Depp, accepted the prestigious Best Audio Book Of The Year Award at tonight’s 2011 Audie Awards Ceremony in New York City. “LIFE,” the audio book released by Hachette Audio, captures the rock-n-roll spirit and life of Keith Richards and is narrated by Hurley and award winning actor Johnny Depp. The Audio book has won accolades since its release including New Yorker Magazine, Amazon’s Best of 2010, Publisher’s Weekly and numerous celebrities…

During a recent week long road trip, I listened to Life by Keith Richards. The audio book is twenty CDs in length, unabridged. I thought it was start-to-finish terrific. I finished it in five days. Felt sad when it was over. Life is one of those books you never want to end. I guess in a way it won’t because Richards’ story is one that will stay in my head forever. Hurley and Depp’s narration are deserving of the Audie Award. Keith Richards narrates the last few chapters himself.

Probably as much for his partying reputation as for the way he made music, I’ve always idolized Keith Richards. After reading Life, I’ve come to admire him more. There is no doubt Keith Richards epitomizes the label rock star. Listening to him tell his story makes me believe there is nobody more deserving of that moniker. Deserving not because of any (perceived or real) life style, but because of his dedication for making great music. Richards’ love for what he calls Chicago Blues is as obvious coming off the page as it is infectious when you hear that sound. Keith Richards had a gift to share with the world. And share it he did.

Another man with a gift (his for comedy and interviewing people) Marc Maron mentioned Keith Richards’ autobiography on one of his recent WTF Podcasts. “Man did we misjudge this guy” was his observation. My thoughts completely. Maron says he’s reading Life slowly. “Like it was the Bible. Don’t want it to end.”

There is a reason I mention Marc Maron while writing about Keith Richards. I thought of him while watching Jimmy Fallon’s interview with Richards on Late Night May 10, 2011 (clips on Hulu). I hate to be critical of Fallon’s interview skills but I would just say this of that interview. I know Richards speaks in a slow drawn-out-slurry English accent but… Let the man talk. What the fuck? He’s written a ton of great songs. He wrote a book. He is off the smack. He’s not retarded. Probably not Fallon’s fault. Blame TV talk show format and limited amount of time but it sure would be nice to hear somebody have a conversation with one of the greatest rock stars of all time without censorship or time restraints. Which is what made me think of Maron.

OPEN LETTER TO MARC MARON: Please have your people get in touch with Keith Richards’ people. Ask Richards if he would be willing to sit down for an interview. Surely there are plenty of similarities between musicians and comics when it comes to achieving greatness. Plus like yourself, Richards is a guy who is obviously not afraid of being honest. We know he has great stories. I bet some of them are what-the-fucking funny. Do it.

Comedy is Pretty Sometimes

From the Buffalo Chip Newsletter (follow the link to read and subscribe), May 3, 2011: In every Playboy Magazine Playmate Data Sheet, the models always say their turn-ons are men with a sense of humor. Comedian Dwight York, found the axiom to be true with two lovelies he found wandering about the Chip in 2010. Dwight will return to the Buffalo Chip Comedy Club this year. He’s the new master of one-liners and would make Henny Youngman and Rodney Dangerfield proud. By the way, there are always lovely ladies hangin’ out at the Chip. Bring your cameras.

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Krystin and Charity will be returning this summer. Make your reservations now. I will introduce you around when you get here.

Courageous or Crazy?

When I first began my blog, I was a bit concerned I wouldn’t be able to come up with enough cool stuff to write about. Those doubts were put to rest when I realized I didn’t need to chronicle only current events. I’ve been at this game for twenty-two years. I have plenty of stories to tell. Today I’m sharing a favorite from last summer’s adventure at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. It’s about a big biker I met named Tiny and his impression of watching me do comedy on the Buffalo Chip’s main-stage between Tesla and Hinder back in 2009.

I met Tiny outside the Buffalo Chip Comedy Club. He and other campground guests were waiting to be interviewed by Pee Wee Herman. I was hanging around just in case somebody wanted to talk to me. Pee Wee was at Sturgis to film a segment for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. It’s my guess that somebody from the front office asked Tiny if he’d stop by. No doubt Pee Wee wanted to talk to some menacing looking bikers.

Tiny has been working backstage concert security at the Buffalo Chip for over twenty years and is one-hundred-percent genuine bad-ass-biker. Although if you talk to him, he seems to have a gentle nature, Tiny is an imposing figure and carries himself like a guy who is used to getting respect. He got it from me. I felt very tiny talking to him. Mostly I just listened.

Tiny sat at a table with me while waiting to be interviewed and shared a few great stories. A couple of these I think it prudent of me not to retell but I want to give a brief synopsis of one because it paints such a great picture. Tiny has a coyote tail attached to his vest. Before wear-and-tear and time had taken its toll, the entire animal’s skin was sewn onto the back, complete with head-baring-fangs resting on the shoulder (great conversation starter). Tiny ran into this particular coyote one night on his motorcycle. He was lucky to survive the encounter. The coyote was not.

When we first began talking, Tiny said I looked familiar but couldn’t recall from where. He mentioned this a few times during our conversation. Twenty minutes later it dawned on him. “I remember you from last summer,” he said. “You were on the big stage. One of the big nights. Telling jokes.” As Tiny spoke he gave me a look of recognition. I’d also like to believe it was one of respect because he added, “That took a lot of guts.” Hearing took a lot of guts from a guy who knew a thing or two about exercising courage gave me such a rush of testosterone that I could almost feel the hair growing on my chest. Of course I can’t really know for sure if he meant this as a compliment. For all I know he may have thought I was just fucking nuts.

To watch that segment filmed for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno follow the link: Pee Wee Herman at Sturgis. Tiny makes an appearance at 2:45. It originally aired Aug 10, 2010.

Buffalo Chip Comedy Club

All part of the “best party anywhere” Legendary Buffalo Chip Campground; Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

Pandora Launches New Comedy Service

This past Wednesday, the Internet radio service Pandora (80 million registerd users in the U.S.) launched a new comedy service. I was informed that my material is part of their new launch catalogue. I am happy to hear this news. Seems like yet one more cool new way for people to listen to stand-up comedy.

As the  New York Times explained in their Wednesday edition: Since it began six years ago, the Internet radio service Pandora has changed the way millions of people listen to music online. Now the company wants to do the same for comedy.

To sign up visit: http://www.pandora.com/#/. There you can listen to one of the several new comedy stations or you can even create your own. If you want to hear clips of mine you can bookmark my page (I think that’s how it works). You don’t even have to feel guilty. They pay royalties: Dwight York discography on Pandora. 

I wish my new friends at Pandora success. Thanks for having me on!

24/7 Radio’s Featured Comedian of the Week

This Monday thru Friday (May 2- 6) I am the “Featured Comedian of the Week” on 24/7 Comedy Radio

If you haven’t yet heard of 24/7 Comedy Radio, you do not live in Kansas City. If you do not live in Kansas City (or in one of the other four markets), I predict that 24/7 Comedy Radio will be on your radio dial soon. Last Fall The Donkey Comedy Network launched this new all-comedy radio station and it’s gaining listeners fast.

24/7 Comedy Radio is the first short-attention-span, fast-paced, hits-oriented, mass-appeal comedy radio format for terrestrial radio. I believe it’s arrival is long over due. Sunday night I talked to George Gimarc, Founding Partner of the Donkey Comedy Network and Ops Director for 24/7 Comedy Radio. We had a long conversation. He was excited to share his vision. I am excited to be part of it.

If you are in Kansas City (or are lucky enough to be in one of the other radio markets that currently carry this cool new station) you can hear me throughout the day (and night) all week long. Or you can listen online 24/7 Comedy Radio.

Good luck to my new friends at 24/7 Comedy Radio. Thanks for having me on!

Why Offensive is Funny To Me; My Next Book and CD

Frequently I am asked, “When will you be coming out with a new book or CD?” I love that question because it’s also a compliment. I don’t know when either of these will be out but, I am happy to say that currently I am working on both a new book and a new CD simultaneously.

The book is a straight forward project. Put enough jokes together. Find a publisher. It’s not quite finished because before putting polish on the manuscript, I want to dedicate some serious writing time to thinking up some purposely sick stuff. But I have plenty of material in the archive and even without trying for vile I am always adding more. I think I will call my next book More From The Vile File.

My next CD is going to be much more complicated. I want it to be a collection of the very best jokes from The Vile File and More From The Vile File. Sort of an audio book. I will probably call it From the Vile Files. But I can’t just read these jokes alone in a studio. I have to share them with an audience and capture their reaction. That means these vile jokes are going to have to get laughs. That means I have to first work them out on stage.

Working them out on stage will not be easy. Problem is not all my Vile File jokes go over well with your typical comedy club crowd. Let’s face it. Not everybody is amused by, “My girlfriend claims the best sex we ever had was the time I wore a ski mask and came in through the bedroom window pretending to be a burglar. I have no idea what she is talking about.”

To record a funny and entertaining CD consisting of all over-the-top offensive material probably means it will have to be done at a “special live taping.” One in which the audience consists entirely of comedy-jaded people who share my sick sense of humor. I think I will invite all my comic friends (and groupies) in town; bribe them with free pizza and beer.

Special audience? Jokes too sick for the stage? This begs the question: If these sick one-liners do not (typically) make people laugh, can you call them jokes? I think so. That was premise of my original book. I explained why I thought that jokes too sick for the stage could be funny to read (at least to some). Below is how I made my case.

From the Introduction to The Vile File: Jokes Too Sick for the Stage (a Trailer House Press Publication. Copyright 1999 by Dwight York)

I am in the business of making people laugh. Offending the audience does not accomplish that objective. It is therefore never my intention to write anything that will not get a positive response. However, during the creative process I occasionally come up with some off-color stuff. This book is a collection of the sickest of these.

Most good jokes are tiny stories with surprise endings and adverse consequence. They contain two parts. The set-up and the punch-line. The set-up takes your mind down a path of predictable outcome. The punch-line changes the outcome to something unexpected, while at the same time detrimental. In other words, a little trick was played on your mind, revealing that someone got hurt.

For those who cringe at the idea of comedy requiring an element of tragedy, consider this: America’s Funniest Home Videos is considered by most to be an in-offensive family-orientated comedy, yet the most common source of laughter on that show is somebody falls down (which, by the way, hurts). So before anyone gets on their high horse and condemns my book, remember this: The little stories contained herein are fictional. Nobody got hurt in the making. It is just a collection of words.

Of course the whole purpose of this little book is to be offensive. And to be honest, to someone like myself, who is constantly exposed to nice comedy, offensive humor can be most amusing. The imagining of an audience’s shock and subsequent reaction, the utter absolute inappropriateness, and a severe consequence all can make for one damn funny joke. There is a childlike mischievous delight in thinking “ooh, that is so wrong to laugh at — I can’t believe I thought or heard or said it” that strikes hard at the funny bone.

Surely the argument can be made that by making light of some serious immoral act you are in fact condoning it. And I suppose there will be some sadistic, perverse bastard who reads this and thinks that a particular joke is funny because he’s “been there, done that” or thinks “now there is one damn fine idea.” It is also true that a sicko could buy a hammer and bludgeon someone to death, but that is not going to stop the tool company from making them. There is also this point to consider: Humor can sometimes be the best way to bring a taboo subject out of the closet, helping society deal with it. But I don’t intend to claim any moral high ground. My motivation in writing this is as simple as monetary gain.

Having said all that it is time for the warning: Do not try any of these at home.

So enjoy my little stories with an open mind and if they bother and or upset you in any great way, stop reading them, throw the book away, AND BY ALL MEANS, don’t buy the sequel.

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You can buy my book The Vile File and my CD Quickies (Stand Up! Records) from Amazon.com

If You Think Snow in April is Bad, Try Living Out of a Tent at Sturgis

After two weeks on the road (GA KY WV OH) I am back home again (WI) in my little shack in the woods. I woke up yesterday morning to a few inches of snow on the ground. April 20th is late for a snowstorm — even in this part of the country — but fine by me. I hadn’t planned to go anywhere anyway. Of course my friends and neighbors didn’t feel the same way. They had to venture out in the shit.

Although I didn’t complain about the weather yesterday, I can relate to those who did. As a starving artist/comic, I’ve had to deal with my share of inclement weather. I was homeless for awhile. I didn’t want anyone to know so I slept in front of a Ticket Master. That is a joke (one of my better ones) but seriously — on many occasions — I’ve been stuck out in the cold. 

Below is one of my “braving the elements” stories. It’s another excerpt from my mini-memoir about my 2009 adventure at the Legendary Buffalo Chip Campground for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Mother Nature was a bitch that year. She is famous for that in the Black Hills.

From The Big Risk  (picked up somewhere in the middle) copyright 2009 by Dwight York 

A war began that morning that I would wage for the remainder of my stay. It would pit me against the elements and would be fought most every day. That day’s battle was against the wind and my tent became the first casualty. Though I’d been warned of the rapidly changing weather the Black Hills is famous for, it never occurred to me that on a sunny day, without a storm cloud in the sky, the wind could kick-up with such force that it could lay waste to my tent and to my comfort creating efforts of the previous few days. It can and it did.

Because my four person tent was nearly as old as my comedy career, I’d brought along back-up. This tent was designed to withstand the most extreme weather, but I didn’t relish the idea of having to live out of it. It was made for backpacking and provided just enough space for one person to lie down. That made things like sitting up and changing clothes frustratingly problematic. Plus it ended all hope of ever “entertaining” an overnight guest. But there was no time to lament my loss; I had shows to prepare for…

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The next several days were spent slogging it out. And not just on stage. I slogged it out with the wind which kept my tent in the hot sun and kept me looking disheveled. I slogged it out with the daily thunderstorms that turned the road in front of my campsite into a mixture of mud and clay (the locals call gumbo) which sticks to the bottom of your shoes like hardened cement and is all but impossible to scrape from your clothes. I slogged it out against the heat and humidity and the inside of my tent grew mold. I slogged it out across the rain soaked fields in search of adventure and new friends and lost ten pounds. And I slogged it out in my head to keep my attitude from going to complete and absolute hell.

…………… [break] ……………………..

The following day was another that summer that will never be forgotten. One of the most severe hail storms in Black Hill’s history struck the campground. I was walking out in the open just before it hit. Although there were storm clouds in the distance, the sky didn’t look particularly foreboding and so initially, I had no idea what was sailing past me when hail started skipping across the ground (the wind blowing the icy pellets out in front of the storm). First a piece of something hit me in the back. Then another something flew past my ear. My assumption was that somebody was throwing shit at me because they’d seen one of my shows. Then all hell fell from above. I ran for shelter under the roof of the Sam Kinison Stage and watched first in fascination, then in alarm, as hail – some as big as softballs – poured from the sky.

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I will be returning this August to Sturgis for the big rally. I am hoping for nice weather.

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