Pictured: Me on the way to the airport. Not pictured: my future molestation
by TSA ten minutes later. When you have a ton of equipment, a one-way
ticket, and a huge northface jacket in Los Angeles, they put you in your own
line -- the rape line.
Brief Note before usual hilarity:
I'm on a plane headed to Boston. Right now there is a baby fighting to stay awake for the sole purpose of screaming/urinating into my face.
Here's the deal: We heard from the Conan people. They say to keep going and to get an agent. All of these things are in the works, thanks to the site and to the industry people I've met along the way. Either it's honest or it's not. Either way, it doesn't matter. The trip was about getting attention and building up a video and web presence.
In the meantime, Pete and I have decided to move forward. I will still be performing ppt in parts of the country. We'll still be producing videos and updating our blogs. All the while, Pete will cut the film, I will write a book (replete with zesty pesto recipes), Torio will go back to space, and we'll all have nightmares about Cleveland.
So keep following. It's not over. It's just the next phase.
P.S. If you're from Bank of America, it is over. I'm dead. Stop calling.
Many people have wondered about Conan or Bust. What happened to us? Where are the videos? Did you meet up with Conan's people? Kirstie Alley is on dancing with the stars and you haven't made fun of her -- is everthing okay? Yes and we're fine. There are answers to all of these questions. First, we want to finish our videos. Then we'll reveal the details. Please be patient. Especially if you're from American Express. I will call you back -- I promise.
Our final show is upon us. I'm going to live blog the performance. It will be just like my live-blogging of the tsunami only not as funny. Here's the premise:
1. I convinced the owners of the Improv Olympic West in Hollywood to give me a private 1/2 hour show by employing my usual, "Conan or Bust is coming into town and your club needs us" approach. When asked how many people I could get, I told them 75. Then, I set about the process of getting 75 people to attend a show -- I was a little nervous since I couldn't even round up 75 people to check out the webite (I'm looking at you, Jean Lacy Harte).
2. Strategy: I placed an ad on craigslist for a free comedy show. Zero bites.
3. Strategy II: I placed an ad for actors on craigslist. I told them it was for a punk'd-style reality show. We were doing a screen test at the IO theater -- there were hidden cameras set up and we would gauge their ability to "react" to a comedy show. Me? I'm Rob Mccaul, a writer for Leno. I'm purporting to be Joe Piccirillo, a comedian trying to land a job on Conan. I even have a website, conanorbust.com, which is fake. Conan producers will be in the audience and the joke is that "Hey, I can write just as well as a conan writer." 100 actors showed up.
Here we go, live blogging:
9:35 AM: woke up. Checked CNN.com to see if we were on the homepage.
9:37 AM: fell back asleep.
12:01 PM: woke up. Followed Charlie Sheen's twitter feed.
3:15 PM: suffer brain hemorrhage after watching twenty minutes of Yo Gabba Gabba featuring a cameo by singing/dancing fat machine Jack Black.
3:45 - 3:46: practice for tonight's set.
3:47 - 4:25: make and eat a turkey and swiss sandwich.
6:15 PM: Arrive at the meeting spot I gave the actors: Knickerbocker hotel in Hollywood.
6:16 PM: discover that it's not a hotel but a retirement community. At least Torio will have somewhere to go afterwards.
6:20 PM: reunite with Torio. We caught up on his latest adventures wth his job search and diabetes.
6:25 PM: I deliver my "Rob Mccaul" speech to the actors to thunderous applause (after I locked Torio in a newspaper kiosk)
6:35 PM: Actor cornered me and is asking questions about working for Leno. He is believing everything I say even though it's clearly wrong.
7:04 PM: talking with other comics about the devastation in Japan and the aftermath of the radiation poisoning and also how no one predicted Ice T's successful foray into acting.
7:15 PM: race to set up the stage. Shouldn't have spent 10 minutes loading and watching the trailer for Hop.
7:30 PM: show begins. Torio tells me he is going to do new jokes. Improv people chant/dry hump behind us.
7:33 PM: torio does a great job with his set. Ahmed Baroocha is next.
7:40 PM: Ahmed does well. My turn.
7:50 PM: Reveal the celebrities I promised: a cardboard cutout of the cast of Mighty Ducks 3. Audience boos.
7:51 PM: Ask audience if they are booing me or the movie Might Ducks 3. Audience throws things.
8:15 PM: Successful show. Stepped on time of Improv group. Told them to imagine I didn't do that and not to negate what I said -- a classic rule of improv comedy.
10:15 PM: Reward myself with a celebratory episode of Law and Order: SVU. They put the sexy back in sex crimes.
11:02 PM: Check the site to see how many hits we have: 2.
11:03 PM: Realized that I was looking at the number of hits for the previous day. Updated the system for today's date: 0 hits.
Show is in a few hours...
We attended a taping of Conan today. Here's the breakdown: Virgins dressed as vikings/Star Wars characters and Pete and I gathered in the Warner Bros. parking lot. We were assigned a ticket number (10 and 11) and were asked to return at 3PM for the taping.
In the interim I caught up on episodes of House -- will he ever let his guard down? -- wrote a few more sketches, blog posts and suicide notes. When we arrived it looked like circus circus; people were camped out on benches and sitting Indian style on the cement floor.
By sheer chance (or perhaps Divine Intervention from a God showing leniency after exposing us to radiation in San Fran), we were the last two people allowed in the studio. There were no seats for us so we leaned up against the back wall like passing vagrants.
This was it. After three months, untold bills, successes and disappointments, we had arrived at the studio for a taping. A plan we had conceived 6 months earlier had come to fruition and instead of feeling relief or pride, I was thinking about writing more skits, about how we were going to finish the skits before I left for Boston, and about House. Will he ever let love in?
There's a pretty good movie called GATTACA with Ethan Hawe. He lives in a time where people's fates are predetermined -- he had a life expectancy of 30 years but was determined to become an astronaut despite facing discrimination from the space agency (and the world!). He takes a job with the organization as a janitor and tries to infiltrate the organization. There's a scene in which he is watching a rocket blast into space and he says, "I've never felt farther from my dream than when I was standing five feet from it."
That's about right.
Pete and I had traveled across the country -- we did the work of 20 people (and even became other people) and despite all of our efforts, we were relegated to sitting in the rafters of the show I wanted to write for. It's like watching another guy bang the girl you want to be with.
After the show wrapped, Pete and I didn't say very much. We just kept working on the project and talking about logistics. They say nature is a humbling experience and witnessing it I can say that's true -- nature must have been humbled in my presence. But this is the first time I felt humbled.
Then, I punched Torio in the face. Now he feels humbled (and pain).
We arrived on schedule in Los Angeles yesterday. Pete is home. His son and wife saw him in person for the first time in three months and for a change, I was the one holding the camera. if you've ever watched a reality show like the Biggest Loser or Wife Swap, the producers film these sweeping romantic moments filled with sprints and hugs and tears -- none of which is real. The reality is that Pete's son ran to him... and then picked up a stick and started playing with it. Pete's wife (wary of cameras) gave him a hug and a reserved kiss. Then, she said, "OK," and they went inside and reconnected in subtle and private ways that the camera wasn't privy to. They were a family again. It's surprising to see how quickly real life can dwarf a project like this.
It's the beginning of the end.
It's a good thing I'm moving into their bathroom.
Why? My 3-year old son is quite wily, maybe even a bit of a shyster. He knows what he wants and knows how to manipulate any situation in order to get it. But it takes a shyster to know one and it wasn’t more than a month on the road before I came to realize how important my role is in my son's upbringing.
Being a father makes sense to me. I know that’s weird to say, but it does. And that’s why there are no words that can explain the kind of feeling you get when you finally return home after being away for so long. Getting home and seeing my son again for the first time in months was the kind of thing dreams are made of. My son was older and much smarter. So much so that it’s amazing to watch him try to manipulate me at every given opportunity. It made me proud, yet fairly alarmed. So to fatherhood I go, with the wind to my back, a smile on my face and my son on my leg.
Don’t worry - I’ve got this. Take a look…
A while back, Donald Trump put in a bid to purchase the heavily disputed location near ground zero where someone dared to build an Islamic center (replete with swimming pool). That was good news. The better news is that according to the AP, Trump is reportedly mulling over a presidential run. I, for one, think this is a capital idea and can't wait for him to fix America. I received a copy of his preliminary plans. Take a look.
1. Issue: Foreign policy
Trump Solution: Trump will deliver State of the Union addresses on set of Access Hollywood and call Gadhafi, Bin Laden, and Mubarak "total losers" and "pigs" just like Rosie O'Donnell. Then, he will tear down the UN building and move all meetings to the Trump Plaza hotel and casino. When diplomats from uncooperative countries arrive, he will "accidentally" put them in smoking rooms and downgrade them from kings to two double beds. Plus, he will charge them for porn they never ordered. When they eventually cave, Trump will call them "spineless" and take away their pool privileges.
2. Issue: Education
Trump Solution: All children's names will be placed into a raffle. The first 50 selected will be placed into charter schools and into a another raffle that could land them a jet ski. The next 70 million chosen will work the grounds at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City. The remaining 40 million will be allowed one pull at a penny slot machine and then deported.
3. Issue: Illegal Immigration
Trump Solution: Have all illegal immigrants compete for citizenship on his latest edition of The Apprentice. The winner is allowed to stay in the country and become Trump's personal assistant. Losers are told "you're fired" then placed into a taxi that takes them directly to his mansion where they will work on his landscaping.
4. Issue: National Debt
Trump Solution: Tell all government agencies and Americans to stop answering phone calls from China. Then, have the country file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Follow up with a book championing the successes of America. Foreword by Trump. Repeat as necessary.
Win Win -- 1 out of 7 Golden Slacks
Synopsis (from imdb.com):Disheartened attorney Mike Flaherty (Giamatti), who moonlights as a high school wrestling coach, stumbles across a star athlete through some questionable business dealings while trying to support his family.
Joe's Take: Have you ever sat through a movie or bris and thought to yourself: "I think the outcome of this would be greatly enhanced with a wrestling match?" If you said yes, then you should watch Win Win, then hurl yourself into a trash bin. The film is a classic story of wrestling and a troubled kid who, through wrestling, learns deep values and confidence and better skills at wrestling. Admittedly, I know nothing of the skills required for high school or college wrestling but the movie suggests that the kid is a phenom, like in The Natural, only instead of being blessed with the ability to hit knuckle balls or throw fastballs, he can pin down a guy for a really, really long time. It's like my ability to kick dogs across lawns. I was born with an innate talent. Where are my scholarships?
Unexpected Scene: Paul Giamatti and the kid watch Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler and point out all of the technical inaccuracies. Then, they wrestle.
The Lincoln Lawyer -- -9,770,978 out of 7 Golden Slacks
Synopsis (from imdb.com): A lawyer conducts business from the back of his Lincoln town car while representing a high-profile client in Beverly Hills.
Joe's Take: Everyone knows that in Hollywood, the story from the initial pitch to the final product can often change. I've received script/character changes for this movie. Take a look:
Writer: I have a story about a plumber who loses everything in Katrina and lives in his car. He slowly rebuilds his community, goes to law school and now works to help the very people who ignored him in LA. I have Edward James Olmos in mind. Based on a true story, by the way. Amazi --
Studio Exec: Katrina is 2005. They didn't have iPads back then. No one will relate. Also, we need a sexier actor
Writer: OK. Recession. 2009. Forces guy to live in his tiny car. He goes to law school and then prosecutes the very people who put him there.
Studio Exec: Recession is depressing. Will remind people they shouldn't spend money on the movie. Also, make it a classic car. It's sexy. No one wants to see someone hanging out in a Dodge.
Studio Exec: Wait. We have a project right now where Matthew McConaughey hangs out in the back of an old Lincoln.
Writer: We could just make him a lawyer.
Studio Exec: Done.
Unexpected Scene: During a climatic scene where McConaughey is conducting shifty business in his car, he smartly takes it into a car wash and opens his enemy's window -- the enemy is clean but temporarily blinded.
Limitless -- 1 out of 7 Golden Slacks
Synopsis (from IMDB.com): A writer discovers a top-secret drug which bestows him with super human abilities.
Joe's Take: I don't trust movies in which men endowed with super intelligence use that power to earn money. I would use it to retake the SATs, apply to Ivy League Institutions and then turn them down. Also, super intelligence can be a drag -- it would almost certainly ruin my enjoyment of the misunderstandings on According to Jim. I don't want to solve Jim's problems; I want to see how he deals with them in a hilarious fashion. Movies like this aren't logical. Cooper gets mixed up in crime and greed. If you were super-intelligent, you would make your millions and move away from friends, family, and Circus Circus.
Unexpected Scene: Cooper goes on Jeopardy and loses to Watson. Then, the kid from Win Win shows up and wrestles them both.
It's been awhile since I've written. When we last parted ways, Japan was fine, Gadhafi was adorable and Charlie Sheen was melting down. Since that time a lot has changed. I was in San Fran and now I'm in Los Angeles. In between, I stayed in a hotel called Circus Circus. It's where families go to die. The lobby of the hotel looks like a cross between an airport, a deportation center, and the darkest nightmares in our collective brains. They have installed a camera into the wall of the hotel (see below) that allows patrons to take photos of their muggings/rapes.
I cannot express the sadness one feels after staying in Circus Circus. I was waiting in line behind a family that can only be defined as a real-life version of the Klumps only with less tact. They arrived at 9AM and had attempted to check in. When told that check-in wasn't until 3PM, the mother Klump said, "That's fine! I'm just happy to be in a building." If I weren't surrounded by 1,000s of kids wetting themselves and me, I would have reflected on the sadness in a statement like that. Instead, I ran to the elevators to escape the pandemonium. (see below).
(People remarked on how strange it was for the hotel to have a 13th floor.
I reminded them that the entire hotel was bad luck, not just that floor.
Their chances of being stabbed remained the same.)
I played two shows in Vegas -- one at the Riviera and the other at the Golden Nugget. One of the aspects of comedy that people rarely get a chance to see is what happens when you talk to the comics who give you time. The host of the Riviera show took me aside and asked me softball questions like, "How long have you been doing comedy?" or "Where are you from?" before launching into a warning hidden in friendly language.
The guy put his arm around me and said, "Hey, Just so you know. This is Vegas, not Boston. So your Boston jokes won't play here. Okay?"
Then, the guy went on stage and did impressions of Buddy Hackett and Andrew Dice. All they wanted to do was talk about rape. He asked for requests. Someone yelled about President Hu and he started yelling at the crowd.
After my set, he came up to me and said, "Hey, I really warmed them up for you. Enjoy it." I later saw that same guy in a pizzeria at Circus Circus -- he was sending back his pepperoni pizza because it had too much cheese on it. He was sitting next to a blended family (black father, son and daughter; white mother and daughter) that was constantly bickering until the father stood up and yelled, "Stop it! Can't we just have a nice dinner?! Look where we are!" It was like a sadder Clark Griswald.
The next show was at the Golden Nugget. I had 15 minutes in front of a crowd that was there to see Country All-Stars. Basically, you plunk down $40 and you get to see people dressed up like Reba McIntyre sing their hits. Weird, but the booker and crew were cool; they treated us like kings.
The crowd, though, was 50 and over. The worst aspect of the ppt stand-up is that there's no room for changing gears. If they crowd is not into something, I have to push through the slides and we all sink together. I did a joke and heard gasps from the crowd. I knew it was going to be a long set. I got them back but there were times when I longed for the good times that awaited me in the lobby of Circus Circus. At that point, I, too, would be happy to be in a building.