I did knot expect to tie that all together.

I’ve been procrastinating about starting this. The Internet has been far too alluring. So to make up for it, I’m gonna let you in on what I’ve been reading. Doesn’t that sound exciting? Sorry, messed up the word order there. Meant to say That doesn’t sound exciting!

Let’s begin.

I watched the trailer for Ready Player One. I enjoyed the book. It was a silly wish fulfilment narrative. The lead characters weren’t terribly well carved out. The whole thing was pandering stacked upon pandering. It was also a lot of fun, and even if it felt like the evocation of something my friends and I used to play called The Anythink Game. The premise was simple, you could be anyone and do anything you could think of. We used to play it on a trampoline. We’d be Transformers one minute and Ninja Turtles the next. I don’t know if we ever played as everyone’s favourite female Street Shark, but that was obviously a missed opportunity. Ready Player One felt in the same spirit and as such, it was a neat world to slip into. If I’d read it at age 13, I can guarantee you it would’ve been my favourite book of all time. I have no idea how Spielberg’s team is legally gonna get a hold of all that copyrighted material, but they’re the real heroes of the film. The scale of the idea makes sense on the big screen and in watching the trailer you can already see how specifically tailored to 3D they’ve made it. A big dumb film perfectly fit for a cheap Tuesday.

I had forgotten how cringeworthy a bunch of it was though.

I bought a new keyboard. I’m so tired of having to write on my phone while in transit. The Swype keyboard sure speeds things up, but it also gets overworked pretty easily. My poor Moto G can’t keep up with my fingers. I’d been considering buying a tablet or laptop, but if a keyboard can fix all my issues, why not go with the simplest solution? I realised the other day how I still haven’t adjusted to Bluetooth as a technology that exists. I’m a curmudgeon who’s already been made technologically obsolete. I was at the park the other day, marvelling at my friend’s rugged and robust bluetooth speaker. In my head, if it’s not hard-wired, it won’t work. I guess I’ve acclimated to the understanding that I often buy technology that’s behind the curve. Since my gear’s never top of the line, I just assume that all technology is as shitty as mine. The last time I bought something cutting edge was my beloved Samsung Galaxy S2. Even when it was dated, it still worked great. Stupid different Canadian networks not working with my pride and joy.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to constantly carrying a heavy work-around everywhere I go.

Lastly, T.J. Miller. I always thought of him as a provocative performance artist in the vein of Father John Misty. If that’s what he’s going for, judging by this interview he overshot the moon and ended up in another galaxy. Ugh, he comes off as a totally snarky, condescending prick. Just an unrepentant asshole. It’s a pity, his live performance at JFL42 2015 stands as one of my all time favourite comedy experiences. Densely interwoven meta commentary that was both flashy and subtle. He’s always walked that line for me, but if he’s trying so hard to present an unlikable persona, I’m fine accepting him as thus. Bummer. I hope he gets hoisted on his own petard and comes back to earth.

By the time he does, I might even have my own Bluetooth keyboard on which to write about it.

Maybe it’ll be after seeing him in Ready Player One.

Sure, complain about opportunities. That’s the essence of charisma, right?

Aren’t holidays meant to alleviate stress? First day back at work and it feels like I need a grappling hook to catch up with my backlog. I’m clearly to blame, considering I actually took a holiday instead of working on all my side projects. It feels like I’ve become beholden to a mass of metaphorical mistresses, demanding my attention without being aware of one another. My fault for straying, I guess.

The biggest bugbear right now is Just For Laughs Montreal. The question of my accreditation has been swaying pendulously, just out of reach. The PR team and I are in the world’s slowest tennis rally. They seem to answer one question daily and don’t work weekends. I do understand that I’m a small fry, all things considered. They’ve got a mountain of a festival to sort and I’m a mere rock. I’m also asking a ton of questions, having never covered Montreal before (the festival and accreditation process is pretty different from Toronto). Still, the pace is making it tough to get traction. I’ve got accommodation and transport to book, both of which are contingent on getting accreditation.

So far I’ve learned that my access is pretty limited. I won’t get to cover any big name comics. They seem to be obsessed with booking interviews, but I’ve told them I’m not particularly interested in doing any. I’ll be running a festival blog on Live in Limbo, then concluding with a wrap up article. It means I can keep things fresh and varied, giving my coverage a more up to date feel. It also means I can keep up a more conversational style, which is more in tune with my voice. My hope is to see a bunch of comedy and promote all the solid acts so people can check them out.

They got me doing one interview, but obstacles are making it a hassle to sort. They want pre-promotion which, consisting the comic lives in LA, means it needs to be a phoner. I’m not arguing that his time is more important than mine, so we’re on his schedule. We’ve booked in a 3.15pm call on Thursday, during my work hours. My phone gets no signal at work, so I had to source a landline. I can’t take a speaker phone call at my desk (for transcription purposes), so I had to find a meeting room. By this afternoon, most meeting rooms were booked for Thursday, especially (it seemed) the ones with conference call capabilities. So I had to spend 15 minutes shopping around for the right one. Also because of the aforementioned backlog, I had actual work to catch up on. Guess tomorrow night is gonna be spent researching for the interview.

Now that I’m finally on my way home, I get to put some work into another sidebitch of a personal project. How many ways does the universe have to warn me that the holiday’s over?

You know who knew a thing or two about comedy? Dante.

I remember exactly when I decided I had to be funny. I was nine years old. My best friend was moving on from primary school into intermediate. My best friend was the funniest person I knew. I was not. I don’t know if I’d channelled the latent spirit of Miller, but I knew that I was liked, while my friend was well-liked. Something deep in my core told me that being liked wasn’t enough. I needed to be well-liked, as my friend was. I also knew innately that my friend leaving would throw off some integral balance in the schoolyard. We needed joy, but with him gone, that got a little bit harder. Someone needed to fill that void. My precious nine year old brain volunteered as tribute. Heavy lay the crown, but I’d worn a kippah, it couldn’t be that different.

I still feel like a fraud. Playing a role with wit coming from the head, not the heart. I’m don’t worry whether or not I’m funny, I worry about the distance between my humour and myself. All these years I’ve been searching for the kind of jokes that fit me, that feel natural. Comedy that tumbles out out my mouth without a second thought. I latch on to puns and word play because they feel safe. I love words and how they intermingle. Snide or sarcastic commentary feels safe. Using intellectualism as a stand-in for wit, because keeping the joke at arm’s length means I have time to back down from it. If I it doesn’t land and I haven’t fully committed, it lessens the sting. It minimises both negative consequences and potential.

I’ve started taking beginner improv lessons as a way to understand how to be present. I want to get more in touch with where my humour comes from and how it takes shape. Improv flies in the face of my instincts. Instead of keeping a safe distance, it forces me to jump in and commit. Instead of comparing and contrasting five different thoughts, gauging how any audience would receive them and ultimately wait for a better time to yield higher impact, improv tells me to grab the first thought and run with it. Instead of sifting through ideas for whatever makes me sound smarter, improv tells me to jump in and make it work. To trust my instincts and not back down. To listen to others and work with them. That creating harmony is a tacit contract that requires teamwork.

Our teacher told us last night, if a scene breaks up, if someone fumbles a line, take a second and get back to it. Don’t remove yourself to comment on it. You’re shifting the onus off yourself to instead point the blame somewhere else. You’re not being accountable, you’re immediately jumping off a sinking ship instead of trusting one another to fix the leak. It resonated. I immediately thought of my propensity for commenting from a safe distance. How on one hand an arm’s reach feels comforting, but also isolating. Being unwilling to fully embrace often means standing alone.

It’s easy to live a life without taking risks. Just don’t complain when things don’t get better. That needs to be earned.

Why do they keep making Oscars even though D2: The Mighty Ducks already exists?

In less than 24 hours, the movers and shakers of Hollywood’s cultural elite will come together to bestow the finest honours upon filmmakers and actors alike for their cinematic achievements over the past year. I ask you now, why? Why do we continue to celebrate the film industry’s output year after year, when the critically underrated 1994 masterpiece D2: The Mighty Ducks already exists?

The story of Team USA’s journey to the Junior Goodwill Games, D2, is a rich tapestry of overcoming adversity through the trials and tribulations of high level competitive sports. A film so emotionally compelling and well acted that Entertainment Weekly mentions it “now includes token members representing both sexes as well as major races, religions, and regions.” Wow!

Sure, Moonlight may have brought a tear to your eyes with its inspired use of Barbara Lewis’ “Hello Stranger” in the diner scene, but For Your Consideration, could anything match the raw emotional catharsis of Emilio et al singing Queen’s “We Are The Champions” around a campfire? I didn’t think so. And with all the hubbub about the Academy Awards’ lack of diversity (anyone remember #OscarsSoWhite?) what could’ve been more diverse than bringing together team members from as far away as Minnesota and Illinois? Heartwarming!

The Oscars have always been a forum for celebrating the truest love stories in cinematic history. Really though, while the budding romance between Jack and Rose in 1997’s indie darling Titanic may have captured our hearts (and The Oscars’ eponymous golden statue), does it really hold a candle to Coach Gordon Bombay rediscovering his enduring love of the game? Or his fiery romance with the steadfastly Icelandic Marria? Or his fatherly affection for star player Charlie Conway? When you actually think about it, it’s a downright travesty that The Academy never brought itself to gild what is unquestionably the greatest love story of our time.

At the end of the day, The Academy Awards were created to shine a light on the films that inspire passion, to make us aspire to reach for the stars. Sure, William Wallace’s “Freedom” speech was enough to lead the Scots against the English in the face of almost certain death, but could it have helped them defeat the juggernauts of ice hockey; Team Iceland? Not on your life, son! Just think, if Coach Bombay had been there to teach them that “ducks fly together”, maybe things would’ve turned out differently. Maybe Brexit never would’ve happened. That’s not only the power to change lives, but to change history! If that kind of time travel capability isn’t Oscar worthy, then maybe I just don’t know what is.

Look, I’m not trying to be controversial here. All I’m saying is that if The Oscars really cared about celebrating the best that cinema has to offer, they would’ve seen the futility of subsequent ceremonies from the moment the knuckle puck graced the silver screen.

To think, it all started with a little barksketball.

My plans for today were to sleep deeply, sleep late and rise to visit friends. I would feast, sup deeply from the cup o’ life (why is that a thing in my reference Rolodex?) and revert back to the sleeping thing.

Instead I awoke at 7am and started editing episode 15 of The Air Bud Pawdcast. Because what better use for a Saturday morning could there possibly be? Holy shit was this ever a fun episode. There was the high of having reached the end of season 1. Super Buddies was actually a fun, if ludicrous film and the perfect way to cap off the Air Bud Cinematic Universe proper. Being the end of the year, end of a good run and Christmas time, I shelled out to buy our team branded T-shirts. I told my co-host what I was looking for (since he’s the one with the visual skills) and he manifested my dreams into reality. We also recorded the episode with one of my favourite people. My friend, who hosts monthly bad movie nights in Toronto. The episode was smooth, given that my friend and I already had palpable chemistry, plus the chemistry I’d built up with my co-host over 14 episodes prior.

Like the years, the jokes started coming and they didn’t stop coming (though I bet Steve Harwell wishes they would). I wouldn’t say that we went off the rails so much as that where we were going, we didn’t need rails. We took tangents, took them further then came back around again to where we started. It got silly, siller and flagrantly absurd. In short, it was everything I’ve been wanting to get out of this podcasting experience. The episode rang long, nearly an hour fourty five. The only reason it ended where it did was calling it out of necessity. I could’ve kept going ad infinitum, having found my happy place.

Which is a nice perch from which to give a retrospective. It’s been six months since we released the first episode. We started recording a month or so before that. So many of the early episodes found themselves through trial and error. We saw what worked, what didn’t and got better with each release. My co-host is an expert at making things happen, planning ahead and keeping us all committed. I’m more of the she’ll be right persuasion and having a more rigid structure to work within did wonders for our quality. It was an exciting new pursuit. I’ve been wanting to put together a podcast for years, and seeing it come to fruition stoked some flame of recognition in me that oh, we MADE SOMETHING.

That hard work paid off, resulting in an end product I’m proud of. It was a lot of work and I haven’t felt one pang of regret that it might not have been worth it. Even when I’ve felt the pressure of getting things done to deadlines, to have to work at something that wouldn’t pay off financially, still no regrets. And yes, having the creative outlet of the Pawd has pulled my focus away from I Have My Doubts. I’ve definitely felt like I’ve been phoning it in a bit lately. Then again, I’ve felt like I’ve been phoning a lot of things in lately and it’s nice to look at the list of episodes and realise #notallthings. 2016 has been a hell of a year, but it wasn’t a total tyre-fire.

Not all I got was this fucking shirt.

Yoke-ing around. Towing that line.

I love dad jokes. As a prospective father to be (at some point, not based on any circumstantial or DNA evidence), I know that I’m part of the prime demographic. They’re silly on a meta level and their use ties into my abiding love of puns. Why wouldn’t I be all up in this dad joke biz? The term “dad joke” has been around for only a smidgen of their actual existence. Constant groan pains were part and parcel of my upbringing, with my dad doing his best to embarrass us at any opportunity. Like any good dad would. They’re hard wired into my very being, but where did dad jokes start?
Did it start all the way back with God? Was Our Heavenly Father the first dad joker? Being all trollish with Abraham?
God: “Yo, it’s God here. You know that Isaac dude?”
Abraham: “You mean my son?”
God: “Yeah, that’s the one. Kill him for me, eh?”
Abraham: “Well I don’t really wanna, but sure. You ARE my dad.
God: “PSYCHE! JK LULZ!”
A humorous, innocent bait and switch for the ages. One where a figure of authority utilised their perceived status to craft a comical misdirect. Is that how far the rabbit hole goes? Or am I digging too much? To be honest, I feel like the fun dad archetype is more recent than we’d think. For years, a father’s role was to put food on the table and a roof above his family’s head. Also to put out a bunch of sperm for furthering his lineage. None of which necessitated dumb quips or light-hearted ribbing. Excepting Adam, of course, but he lived in a garden where there was no need of a roof. Being good natured mattered less than trying to stave off famine and polio. I think back to my parents’ fathers. The word on the street was that they were more dutiful than doting, as was the style of the times.
So where did it start then? My honest guess is that sitcoms played their part in fostering the role of the playful patriarch. Humans are pretty dumb pack animals, all too willing to follow instruction or example. Seeing an archetype of the nuclear family develop on television must surely have influenced a shift away from giving beats, towards doing bits. If you’re told that a happy family behaves a certain way, you don’t want to be the black sheep, right? You’ll flock to play your part and emulate that which is sold to you as success. Is that where dads everywhere began to take their cues?
To be utterly truthful, I have no idea. I’m also unsure why the bar for dad joke humour is so low. Does it have anything to do with making jokes aimed towards young children, then getting settled into that trajectory? If you’re used to shooting at a low angle, does it get harder to adjust your aim higher? Is there a nostalgia to it? Clinging to the formula that engendered love with your offspring back when they still thought you were the coolest? Wishing that they’d stay like that for the rest of their lives? Retreading that pattern in the hopes that it’ll once again work? I really don’t know, I’m just spitballing here. I don’t have any kids.
But by God and his greatest creation (dad jokes, obv), I hope to one day.

I haven’t just been sitting on my arse for the past two weeks. I’ve been doing this, too.

For ten days in venues all across Toronto, JFL42 provided festival-goers with an all-you-can-eat array of comedy. In its fifth year, the festival expanded its roster of stand up, sketches, live podcast recordings and improv to include exclusive close-up Q&As with industry veterans. With more laughs on offer than it was possible to obtain (believe me, I tried), here are the Best Bits of JFL42 2016:

  1. Best Punchline – Mark Forward: “I miss my dad every day, but one day I’m gonna hit him.”
  2. Best Exit Clause – Dana Gould: “Til death do us part is god’s way of saying I can get you out of this, but it’s a little extreme.
  3. Best Response to Discovering Masturbation – Kumail Nanjiani on his cousin: “His lips moved but no sound came out. Then he picked up a bb gun and shot a crow.”
  4. Best Mourning Routine – Gary Gulman: “I don’t know when waking up and getting up became two separate negotiations.”
  5. Best Anti-Misogyny Check and Mate – Cameron Esposito: “It’s not weird to consider that women could save you. We made you. All of you.”
  6. Best Toronto Man Cave – Amanda Brooke Perrin: “I love Castle Frank station because it sounds like your dad’s renovated basement.”
  7. Best Defensive Remark – Neal Brennan: “My girlfriend’s dad asked me if I owned a gun. A gun? I don’t even own an umbrella. I couldn’t protect your daughter from a drizzle.
  8. Best Justification for an Ikea Trip – Danny Bhoy: “I hate church pews. 8 inches for your back, 2 inches for your arse. Who do they think is coming? Giraffes?”
  9. Best Layoff-er – Ronny Chieng: “Air lines keep cutting costs by cutting frills. People fly with risky airlines if the cost is low enough. They’re just seeing how low the cost can get before you no longer care about the possibility of dying.”
  10. Best Douche-dar – Hasan Minhaj: “I don’t want to talk about politics is the new I’m not racist, but…
  11. Best Resume Key Skill – Joe DeRosa: “What do all serial killers have in common? Success! They’re all really good at what they do.”
  12. Best Display of Dominance – Sabrina Jalees: “You’re gay? I thought you were sporty. What do you say to that? Do you just do a back handspring into a pussy?”
  13. Best New Quiz Show – Mark Little tested the crowd: “Is this a Justin Bieber lyric? Or something a demon says to a small boy he wants to consume?”
  14. Best Endorsement of Canadian Audiences – Dan Harmon: “Is the Adderall flowing freely here? Is that how you have so much energy? You socialise medicine and everyone has ADD.”
  15. Best Beauty Tip – DeAnne Smith: “If you want to look as young as I do, it’s very simple. Have unresolved childhood issues.”
  16. Best Call for Gender Equality – Jak Knight: “No matter who does it, Titty Fucking looks dumb as shit. And there’s no male analogue. No woman has ever been like Boy, get on your knees and shrug your shoulders repeatedly.
  17. Best Logical Phallus-sy – Sophie Buddle: “I ask him why he likes it when I’m choking during a blowjob. He says it makes him feel like it’s big. You know when a box says choking hazard? It’s not ‘cause the pieces are big. People choke on grapes, not eggplants.
  18. Best Silver Lining – Tim Meadows: “The bad economy was really good for Detroit, ‘cause people couldn’t buy guns and ammo.”
  19. Best Navel Gaza-ing – Neal Brennan: “The irony of the word Palestine is how much it sounds like a Jewish last name.”
  20. Best Sails Pitch – Demitri Martin: “Cruises seem like a difficult thing to market. Do you like hotels? What if they could sink?
  21. Best Living Well – Emo Phillips: “I hate being divorced. I’d rather be a widower.”
  22. Best Use of Braille – Moshe Kasher: “Abs don’t actually do anything useful. They just let blind women know which douchebags not to fuck.”
  23. Best 2 for 1 Groupon – Christophe Davidson: “A bed and breakfast is a good place to see the breakdown in a relationship and a small business at the same time.”
  24. Best Family Reunion – Before Kumail Nanjiani told a story, he asked the crowd if anyone there was related to him.
    “Yeah” said a voice. “Your cousin Nather, from Dallas.”
    Kumail got flustered and sighed before going onto his joke. “So this is the story of how I started wearing underwear…”
  25. Best Excuse for Legalization – Joe DeRosa: “Can you believe Phelps smokes weed? I can’t believe he only smokes weed. Drugs make you better at sport. It’s been proven time and time again.”
  26. Best Post Match Analysis – Danny Bhoy: “How did sportspeople describe their emotional journeys before the invention of roller coasters?”
  27. Best “Missing the Point” – Hasan Minhaj: “How many times do we just put our heads down and do what we should, not what we want?”
    An audience member cheers.
    “No, that’s not…”
  28. Best “It’s 2016” Moment – Cameron Esposito: “How can there be such a thing as a wrong bathroom when 2000 years ago there was no such thing as a bathroom?”
  29. Best Lesson Learned – Dana Gould: “Fun size chocolate is the first time kids get dicked over by advertising.”
  30. Best Backup Career – Is Sabrina Jalees psychic? She gestured to a guy in the front row and made a reference to “Michael’s” sperm.
    “But my name is” He replied and showed his ID. The room went nuts.
    “YOU NEED A PRIZE.” She shouted, before presenting him with a full beer.
  31. Best Life Goals – Jackie Kashian: “When I was four I didn’t want a baby. I wanted moccasins and the fuck out of Wisconsin.”
  32. Best “I love you too, Mom” Gary Gulman: “Must be nice is how Jews say congratulations.”
  33. Best Comeback – Kumail Nanjiani (on Harmontown): “The first time I masturbated, I blacked out and came to.”
    Jeff Davis: “So you blacked out? And came, too?”
  34. Best Call Out – DeAnne Smith: “Sinbad, do you realise that as you’re telling me you’re not a pedophile, you’re holding a bag of candy?”
  35. Best Culture Shock – Hasan Minhaj would periodically deliver punchlines in Urdu before repeating them in English. You’d hear tittering or gasps around the crowd before the rest of the crowd got the joke. It always seemed natural, never pandering.
  36. Best Paradox – Mark Forward: “There are two sides to every story. People say that, right? Which also means there isn’t.”
  37. Best Pakistani Marketing Department – Kumail Nanjiani: “We had a theme park called Fun Land. It sounds like a first draft. It’s around the corner from Work Building and Food Place.
  38. Best Downplay – Emo Phillips: “I like the south. Of course, I’m prejudiced.”
  39. Best Use of Sex Sells – Tim Meadows: “The Dyson Airblade feels like I’m fisting a robot.”
  40. Best Sketchy Business – Amanda Brooke Perrin: “I hate portrait tattoos. It’s always of some baby and the story is never It’s super alive and working at Reitmans.
  41. Best Revelation – Demitri Martin: “When they came up with the word invent, that must’ve been a weird moment.”
  42. Best Cut Down – Neal Brennan: “Skrillex looks like he got his hair cut by one of his own songs.”

Even though Carrot Top was absent, props go to all the organisers of this amazing annual event. The atmosphere around the festival engendered a sense of community, with fans eager to share their favourite acts or suggestions on who to see.  If you’re into a world-class comedy festival on a local stage, check out JFL42 next year. Or don’t, I’m not your dad or anything.