Kevin T. Porter loves Bruce Springsteen

Transcript created by otter.ai for Finding Favorites podcast

Kevin T Porter 0:00
Hi, my name is Kevin T Porter. And my favorite thing is Bruce Springsteen. He’s a, he’s a singer songwriter. And he’s kind of old now. But he has some good songs and I like him a lot.

Announcer 0:14
Welcome to the finding favorites podcast where we explore your favorite things without using an algorithm. here’s your host, Leah Jones. Hello, and

Leah Jones 0:26
Welcome to finding favorites. I’m your host, Leah Jones. And this is a very special Valentine’s Day edition of finding favorite. I don’t know every couple months that I’ve been doing this podcast, I sent it. I make a big swing. Make a big ask. And right before New Year’s, I got very brave. And I sent an email to Kevin T. Porter, who’s the host of Christian good Christian fun, and Gilmore guys. And I asked him if he would come on finding favorites. And he said yes. If you remember the mind map that I posted to Twitter that became the origin story of this podcast, Gilmore guys is central to my finding, like every podcast they listen to now. I listened to West Wing weekly, the Gilmore Girls reboot was announced. And then I’d heard Oh, there’s this podcast, or these two guys are rewatching the Gilmore Girls, you should listen to it.

So I started listening to the Gilmore guys. Through that I was introduced to Jason Mantzoukas. I listened to a couple episodes of his I found out about How did this get made? I found out about Nicole Byer about Jon Gabrus, about the dough boys. Gilmore guys truly opened the door to like all of my podcast friends. And so when Kevin agreed to come on finding favorites, and talk about something that wasn’t Gilmore Girls or Christian pop culture or baking, I was so excited. And you will hear that in this interview that I am nervous. I am keyed up I am high on adrenaline. I was high on adrenaline for a solid 24 hours after this interview. So I literally shout at him. Yeah, right. Oh my god. Cool. Yeah, love it approximately 8000 times during this interview, and I tried to take out probably 70% of my random exclamations of adrenaline, but it’s okay. We’re all learning together. And I’m, I don’t work in PR anymore. So I feel like it’s okay to be excited about a guest. And I was

Kevin is someone that I have a parasocial relationship with, which means it’s a one way relationship because I have listened to hundreds of hours of his podcasts, and 1000s of hours of other podcasts that I got to kind of through that door, that hobby door of listening to his podcast. And I was excited. And he was as nice as kind as interesting as I hoped he would be based on the time I’ve spent with him in my ears, especially during quarantine. So we talk about Bruce Springsteen. And during the Edit of this, I went and found a bunch of YouTube clips of Bruce. So the show notes for this one are chock full of Bruce Springsteen clips, and I’m going to use a couple instead of my normal music bumpers. I use a couple clips from different Bruce songs, short enough clips, that I don’t get dinged by the copyright police. I hope I hope wherever you are celebrating Valentine’s Day or Palentine’s Day with your pals or Presidents Day that you continue to stay safe. So stay safe, stay home just a little bit longer. wear a mask and wash your hands. And enjoy this conversation about Bruce Springsteen.

Leah Jones, cont

Hello, and welcome to finding favorites. I’m your host, Leah Jones. And this is the podcast where we talk to people about their favorite things and we get recommendations without using an algorithm. To say I’m excited this week is an understatement. So we’re gonna jump into it. I am. In my interview with my with Jason Mathis. We talked about this mind map this thing that I posted to Twitter. I was tracing the podcast I listened to and trying to understand the comedy listen to today and the relationships I have with podcasts. And the first stop was West Wing weekly. The second stop was Gilmore guys, and then from Gilmore guys can literally everything else I put in my ears. And I am so excited to have on my podcast this evening, Kevin t Porter from Gilmore guys, which became bonehead bros, which became maizel Gois. Currently the host of good Christian fun, and one of my COVID favorites inside voices. Kevin T. Porter, welcome to fighting favorites. How are you?

Kevin T Porter 5:32
Oh, I’m so good. I love the qualifier of a COVID favorite. It may not be an all time favorite but it is a COVID favorite because I know what you’re saying cuz I’ve COVID favorites myself where it’s like this is why I discovered during the old Demi yeah it will pan Demi and I will remember enjoying this thing during this 16 months or whatever ends up being Brian yeah 18 months Well, I

Leah Jones 5:55
guess I the only reason it gets the qualifier of COVID favorite is I I found it during I mean did you release I know you recorded some episodes of inside voices before but did were any released before COVID Yes,

Kevin T Porter 6:09
we did. I think we started in January. Okay, I don’t know I don’t remember January 2020. Because I’ll always remember it because I went to New York in Washington DC specifically to record which sounds so dumb now like I went out of town to record a podcast because how else would you How would you would you record a podcast unless you know where the person is? So I remember recording the last few episodes of that season with those people and I’m remember our my last in Person guests for that Glen Weldon from NPR is pop culture happy hour. When we met he elbow bumped me. It was March 5, six. I was like, okay, weird. Like, why is he elbow bumping me Who cares? And I remember defiantly shaking the engineer’s hand the woman who was running the board at the studio, I was like, I’m not gonna elbow but you know, I love Glen, a friend of mine, but I was like this strange and turns out hashtag Glenn new Glenn knew all along and how dare I doubt him in that sense.

Leah Jones 7:14
I listened to that episode just maybe two weeks ago and you and you really apologize for the sound at the beginning. You’re like there’s all this sound of a cafe and the studio was not quiet. I mean, it really sounds like you guys are just sitting. Are you just in the middle of a restaurant?

Kevin T Porter 7:29
No, but but it certainly sounds like it we were right next to a restaurant in a cafe. At a I won’t I won’t blow up the the the hotel name or anything like that. But it was like it’s a recording studio. So I assumed it was recording studio and truly what it is, is we have microphones set up and there’s a glass enclosure. Is there soundproofing? No, can you get split audio tracks? No, you cannot. Okay. It was so it was just a lot of stuff. I’m like, Well, alright, I mean, we might as well have just met at Glenn’s bedroom, you know, like, it was just a funny thing. But it was the thing listening back to it of I’m not gonna hear this sound again for a long time, in terms of the audience of strangers enjoying themselves in dining. I mean, I’m, I’m personally not going to hear that for a long time.

Leah Jones 8:17
No, it’s gonna be ages. And I. And you did a big setup to the episode. And I was like, surely it won’t. And I was I would, I wanted to replay it immediately because I miss sitting alone in a cafe or a bar and just having

Kevin T Porter 8:33
noise. It was not funny, though. That may be a new, it’ll be interesting to see how this generational trauma works itself out. But you know if some of our audience stuff that we listen to going to sleep now is like rain forests and stormy weather or like even the wind or something. Maybe in 15 years, it’s gonna be cafes, like crowded sports surgery. Right? That will be what is comforting to us as we experienced those things. Again,

Leah Jones 9:00
I think it will be in grad school, I took a production class, and I forget what it’s called. But there’s a type of sound that you can buy. That’s chit chat. That’s like that room noise, okay, that you that you buy it, like, if you if you shot some video and it’s too quiet, or you’re doing an audio book, and you need the ambience, and it’s got like a really cute name that I’m not going to remember.

Kevin T Porter 9:26
It’s a cute name, but it’s not a memorable, it’s not a memorable name.

Leah Jones 9:30
And after I listened to that episode, I was like, maybe I just want to go and get buy some audio of a coffee shop.

Kevin T Porter 9:36
Might as well. I know I do miss that sound so much. Now the sound of a crowded place is scary to me. It’s like a war zone or gunfire is going off in the distance, you know? Yeah. So anyway, what a great note to start the show. I mean, it’s good though, because we’re talking about Yeah, we’re talking about what our favorite things are to listen to. I remember when I was a kid, I would listen to episodes of The West Wing the aforementioned West Wing weekly. Yep, falling asleep. I ripped the DVDs I owned and I made them mp3 and put them on my iPod and listen to those and would kind of internalize and memorize those episodes. Yes, as I fell asleep as a 14 year old boy,

Leah Jones 10:17
I fell asleep to a lot of love line when Adam Carolla was still on it. Okay, so 90s in the late 90s, and I listened to and I got to meet Dr. Drew once he came to the college where I work to do an event, and I took a picture of us and then that was my Christmas card that year. Was but yeah, it was before. It was kind of before Dr. Drew super went off the deep end.

Kevin T Porter 10:46
Yeah, he’s far from the shallow now. Let’s all say that.

Leah Jones 10:48
Yeah, he is. He is what that song is about. Then when I worked like a swing shift. I then would listen to Art Bell. Did you ever listen to Art Bell? I don’t know our bell. Probably better that you don’t. He does. A lot of he’s passed now. But his show was a lot of conspiracies and like shadow people and very spooky things, which, when it’s like three in the morning, and you can’t sleep it is not helpful to listen to an am talk show about shadow people. nonlin.

Kevin T Porter 11:19
Man, he would have loved the past three years in this country. Hmm.

Leah Jones 11:22
He would have been the king of it. This would have been his

Kevin T Porter 11:26
It was his time. His Yes, I know. Yeah. Wow. Well, sad. He couldn’t see this today. Cuz we’re coupon ladies. We’re in Congress or whatever.

Leah Jones 11:35
It’s a well, it’s so awful.

Kevin T Porter 11:39
Who’s your favorite congressperson listener right into the show? Finding your favorite congressional conspiracy theorist? let Leah

Leah Jones 11:48
know. Yeah. We talked about it a little bit before I hit record. So my COVID hobbyist podcasting, and you started baking. And so how is that going?

Kevin T Porter 12:03
Well, I had made a little bit before COVID hit like the last couple of years, I would like to try out different cookie recipes. And I always stuck with really safe little staples like snickerdoodles, or just like a regular peanut butter cookie. And then moving into this new place where I finally live alone. And then just having free rein of the kitchen felt like such a luxury where it’s like, I don’t have to be considerate of anyone besides myself. And so I started experimenting a little bit before COVID started. And then it was a thing where it absolutely plummeted when, right when it started because there was nowhere for the for the food to go. Yeah, this is before we knew a lot about surfaces and how transmission really works. And so after understanding that data and getting that information, it felt like a nice excuse to see people or to give people something and to maintain a connection with them where it’s like I just left something on your doorstep and ran away contact list friendship is what I’m in the business of now. So so that was kind of the aim and goal of that and it became a nice little rhythm and ritual to get into everyday of just getting up exercising maybe a little bit and then coming back home in baking in the morning and trying out new recipes and stuff. And then it ramped up eventually to I started a little teeny, weeny, Itsy Bitsy Little Big shop here in Los Angeles where people can order online and I’ll deliver it within Los Angeles County. It’s a it’s a bad business model, even though it’s we’ve had some success, we use me and my puppets here in this room. They’re all my personal assistants. But it’s been really it’s that’s actually been a nice way when it hasn’t like overload. There was one week where I got like 60 orders and I was like, This isn’t fun, though. But now it’s like now it’s at the regular like maybe seven to 12 orders in a week. And it’s like okay, this is this Yes, feels good to go out and like do three drop offs in a day. Yeah, I think it’s a nice way to see Los Angeles County because I would have no other reason otherwise and to just get out my car with a mask on drop something on people’s doorstep ring the doorbell runaway, you know, yeah, but still like going to places in LA. I haven’t really made myself acquainted with the places I don’t even know technically we’re in Los Angeles County, places like Palace varities and La Mirada and places like that, that you definitely don’t think of when you think of La proper, you know,

Leah Jones 14:35
right, because I got a car during COVID I haven’t had a car in 18 years. I’ve been in Chicago for a long time. I’m like, I ride my bike. I take the bus to take the train. And I was not willing to do that during once COVID started. And so I finally got a car. And then I’m like, Well, I guess I’ll go to Culver is in the suburbs, or I’ve gone to where I go go for a drive thru is not in the city anymore. Just because I’ve got to go somewhere.

Kevin T Porter 15:07
You have a destination, you need a destination

Leah Jones 15:09
of you. Yes, yeah, I

Kevin T Porter 15:11
fully understand that. And it’s all invented stuff now. You’re inventing all of your structure in some ways outside of the actual, physical and like work obligations. Everything else is just I guess I’ll make myself do this for fun and force myself to do this for no other reason, then I’m forcing myself to do it. So yeah, I think the baking I think the baking was a part of that, that invented structure. And it feels nice to have like, a little bit of baking homework every day, even ya know, and it’s fun. It’s so fun to do. I’ll stuff when it’s not fun anymore.

Leah Jones 15:45
That’s, that’s a good plan. My there was a Christmas once when my mom, what were they called Cabbage Patch Kids before like, the year before, they got really big as manufactured, there was a pattern that people could buy and make their own. Okay. And they got really popular in my hometown, and my mom spent like one Christmas making those for other families. And that was where I kind of saw like, oh, if you do a home business around a product, like a homemade product, and you don’t control it, it can just balloon so fast. So that sounds like they are 60. Cookie week, or 60. Delivery week? Yeah,

Kevin T Porter 16:23
yeah. 60 orders it was. I think it was upwards of 600 cookies. It was a lot. It was a lot. I mean, yeah. Usually it doesn’t sometimes a couple dozen. Yeah, it was a lot. It got to the point where it’s like, do I hate cookies? But the answer is no. It’s just that anything in a certain context, for even as much as you enjoy, it can become toil, if you allow it. So that was a good example of that. But I’m getting my groove back, I’m experimenting with recipes again. But that was one of those things where it’s like, I’ve made the same for cookies, so many times. And when I want to do something for fun with a little bit of free time, my instinct now isn’t, well, what about a funfetti recipe, you know, but now now I’m kind of getting back into that groove with it. Fortunately,

Leah Jones 17:07
the concept of my podcast is how did people find their favorite thing? And when we were talking about what what the topic might be today? You you do tend to make whole podcasts about your favorite thing about Yeah, that are your favorites.

Kevin T Porter 17:25
Yeah, that’s interesting. I mean, cuz I’m thinking back on like, are these my favorite things? I think I would I would even amend that just a little bit to say, I I do make shows about things that I think are the most interesting that I like. But I think both in the case of Gilmore Girls, and the Christian pop culture stuff, it’s stuff I have affection for. That isn’t necessarily my favorite, but I think it’s interesting that I like it, dude. I mean, like, I think it’s interesting that I that I so upset, like the context of me enjoying it, for some reason, is interesting to me. Maybe it’s not maybe the least interesting thing in the world. But it’s not like if I made a list of my top 10 Shows of All Time Gilmore Girls would be number one with a bullet. But yes, yeah, it is a trend. In this medium. That happens a lot where people do that, where it’s like, I love whatever. I love Dawson’s Creek, that’s my favorite show. I’m doing rice Creek, rewatch podcast, I love football. I’m creating a football podcast where I talk about my favorite players, blah, blah, blah. And it does, just like I said about the baking stuff. Anything can become toil in the right context. That’s definitely that definitely can become the case. If you’re not careful with how you interact with that content in that like that source material, that substance. And that’s, that’s Yeah, that’s one reason where I’m like, where I have thought, like, would it be fun to do a podcast about the thing we’re gonna talk about, right? And I’m like, Maybe, maybe not. Maybe that’s my version of blasphemy where it’s like, No, well, you can’t do that. That would. That’s just i’m not i’m not enough of a scholar. And I feel like I might say something offensive. And I’m, like, I go, I go in those spirals and rabbit holes.

Leah Jones 19:18
That makes sense. Yeah. I mean, I also I, I know the inside voices was whatever. Like, I do want to acknowledge the incredible parasocial imbalance, which is like you have spent hundreds of hours in my apartment. Mm hmm. In my ears, yes.

Kevin T Porter 19:34
Which I’ve never been to but now

Leah Jones 19:36
I see every Yes, I see a little bit and my cats are coming over to say hello. It’s about useful plants. Love The Godfather up on the top shelf.

Kevin T Porter 19:44
Thank ya. a terrific choice. Is that a VHS?

Leah Jones 19:48
It is? Haha. Yes.

Kevin T Porter 19:51
I love it.

Leah Jones 19:53
I think I still have a VCR and a box somewhere I’m not sure.

Kevin T Porter 19:57
Well, those are coming back after the You know, the physical media apocalypse rains down upon us and all the apple servers go down, you’re gonna want to you’re gonna want to keep on those, those VCRs if you

Leah Jones 20:08
have a few, yeah. But it did seem like inside voices was what I loved about how you manage those interviews, you understand podcasting at a level that I don’t think a lot of people do. You You didn’t go into those interviews cold, you knew like a lot about their people’s careers. And you were also a fan. But I thought that was a really interesting thing, way that you took something that you had been doing professionally or something that you’d been doing professionally for so many years and turning it upside down as a conversation, and I really appreciated them.

Kevin T Porter 20:45
No, thanks. So it’s really nice to say that it was such a natural overflow into something that I think a lot of people in this industry. And I think another similar industries where people work alone are kind of in their little hobbit holes kind of apart from people are not in a communal environment, where there is this sort of collective yearning for a break room conversation to go and make small talk or to gossip with someone while they’re microwaving their hot pocket or something. Yeah, and that would happen so much before and after recording episodes of shows I was already doing it, right, you would just talk, whatever, you would just talk about some annoying thing that happened or some weird thing or some listener thing or like, some gossip thing. And, and so it was fun to like, yeah, put it in a nice package where it became, it became the text of the show. And it was Yeah, it was mostly just an effort of like, we all work here, but none of us are talking to each other. Yeah, even people on my network where it’s like, I didn’t really like sat down and and just in had it out had it out. Right. I need to solve some some conflict with them. But like, you know, it was it was kind of a, it was out of a desire to do that. So hopefully we did that. We did that a little bit on the show. Well, I’m

Leah Jones 22:07
hoping I’m hopeful that it comes back.

Kevin T Porter 22:09
Yeah, me too. We’ll see. We’ll see if head GM wants it ever again. But I hope so maybe one day,

Leah Jones 22:16
cuz I also thought it was good as a as a new podcaster. There, there were times where just in the conversation. For example, in your interview with Rishi, when he talked about editing on paper, I was like, Oh, that’s how you pass off your audio to someone else. him just describing how he edited West Wing weekly. I was like, Ooh, okay, I’m locking that away. Yeah, for a future. So I also thought that was great for like the skills, there was some skills transfer in there that I really appreciated.

Kevin T Porter 22:46
I know in interviews with people like Rishi are where I’m learning because his skill set is so fundamentally, probably better, but also so different from mine in the sense of the kind of shows that he makes. Yeah, because there’s such a necessity, from the content he puts out that doesn’t exist in almost everything that I do where most of is sit down and talk with soundboard and some preparation and some long form interview stuff. But yeah, but in terms of sound design, and yes, the Edit of that sort of stuff. And also, just in general the aesthetic of East Coast, podcasting, like your gimlets. Your nprs is so different from West Coast, comedy podcasting. Yeah. And I feel a little bit versed in the West Coast stuff a little bit.

Leah Jones 23:55
Here to talk about podcasting. We’re not here to talk about Amy Sherman Palladino, or Christian pop culture. What are we here to talk about today?

Kevin T Porter 24:09
We’re here to talk about a singer songwriter hailing from New Jersey and his name is Bruce Frederick Springsteen.

Leah Jones 24:19
I did not know that was his middle name.

Kevin T Porter 24:21
That’s his middle name. Yes. Bruce Frederick. I believe he was named after his father or his grandfather. I forget. Yeah. hailing from Monmouth County, born in Monmouth County Hospital September 23 1949. What a loser. This happened I’ve memorized a Wikipedia but the case it’s in there for some reason. So yes, we’re here to talk about this gentleman today. Right, Bruce, which listeners may remember from his work with such companies as Jeep a couple days ago as of recording this and the Superbowl ad time

Leah Jones 24:55
I did. When he said Bruce Springsteen, I was like, I guess I gotta watch that. Commercial now.

Kevin T Porter 25:02
I know that is. Yeah, I have a lot of kind of weird thoughts about that commercial. It made me feel weird. It made me feel weird watching that

Leah Jones 25:12
it was real Christian. It was real Christian, right? When they’re like in the middle and they just show a cross. I was like, Okay, all right, because I saw that my like Jewish feeds, so I converted and so I have like a really a very Jewish Twitter feed. And when that commercial came up, people were like, whoo, that’s, that’s a weird one. Yeah, it’s not just the cross

Kevin T Porter 25:39
once they keep No, it’s a couple of times. And it’s a couple of different crosses. Well, especially because the commercial does take place. Like the big set piece centerpiece of It is him going to a tiny chapel in Kansas, which is reported to be the literal center of the country. And there’s a cross over a silhouette of the continental United States that has an American flag on it and then a cross over that which is just truly looks like Christian nationalism in a way that so I was Yeah, I felt very complicated about the whole thing on on two levels, maybe three levels. One He’s never done a commercial before ever. He’s never lent his music his image to any commercial anything ever. The most he’s done is like political campaigns and then putting a song and trailers or Yeah, you know, intros for movies hero song for so there’s that where it’s like, Okay, first commercial, you’re 71 it’s for Jeep, which of course it’s a car commercial, to the the Christian nationalist imagery that is so subtle in a way that that feels even worse upon reflection. And then three, the sort of the false dichotomy rhetoric of, we need unity, we’re so divided, we just need to listen to each other, like that sort of thing. And it’s like, your first commercial is a quasi white nationalist, a PSA for like, Oh, we need to be nice to the people trying to kill us. It felt it felt a little disappointing. Yeah. And that’s why he’s my favorite. I feel like I’m coming out so negative, but this is it. It’s like It’s like watching a family member make bad decisions where I’m like, buddy, just call me You could have run this by me. We could have had it out.

Leah Jones 27:38
I love it felt like it belonged in Handmaid’s Tale. Like when Oh yeah, I guess comes out of exile in Canada. Like it I was like, oh, that the, the reunited American or the United States with the star in the middle. I was just like, Okay, so that’s going in Season Five of The Handmaid’s Tale.

Kevin T Porter 28:02
It’s so I know it’s so bleak. Yeah, you know, I find this to be a common theme. With all the Superbowl commercials this year. We’re like, this is the year we all finally felt especially after this, like brutal traumatic year. Everyone’s had. Yeah, it’s like, oh, you growing up as a kid, if you were bored by football, the commercials were the fun part. Maybe something interesting or silly would happen. Maybe you would get the Budweiser frogs. Maybe it was up, maybe you’d get whatever. And now it’s like, okay, Elmo and Grover, I’m going to be shilling for the evil company. doordash, which is, you know, robbing drivers blind because of Prop 22 passing in the state of California. So stuff like that. And then yes, like,

Leah Jones 28:47
and then it was Devi Diggs, who is like a pretty, like, what do you think of the things he’s done outside of Hamilton? They’re very like, I think of him as being someone that would be on the side of labor and of the people and so for him to be doing doordash Oh, since that first Street, which is now an HBO?

Kevin T Porter 29:06
Yes. No, it feels dystopian. This is the year that we’ve realized, like all the people that we admired for so long, also, our very fault in their own ways for not being a certain kind of progressive, where it’s like, yeah, Bruce was like singing pro union songs and working with local labor unions in 1981. He was a veteran’s activist in 1984 he was thinking about police brutality in 1999 and in 2021 he’s saying you know what, everyone needs to be nice to each other. It just feels odd. It feels odd It was weird to me Yes.

Leah Jones 29:39
But um, let’s let’s time travel a little bit.

Kevin T Porter 29:43
Oh, let’s go back in the past

Leah Jones 29:45
go backs.

Kevin T Porter 29:46
Yes.

Leah Jones 29:46
Tell me about the first time you can remember loving Bruce Springsteen, was it did you buy a first CD was there a music video that caught you off guard was he in the air you breathe growing up like everybody listening to Bruce so there’s not like a moment.

Kevin T Porter 30:03
You know, I think I think because of the generational gap, people assumed that my parents would have gotten me into it. But my first memory of it, I found out later that my dad was super into him. Yeah. And he just never shared it with me. And it came like five or six years into me been a huge fan and listener and go wherever, who’s conscious before my dad was like, Yeah, I love him. And I’m like, What? You don’t verbally communicate, Papa, come on. Come, but my first memory of it, I will remember this for ever. This is my version of love at first sight. And I’ll remember it forever. I was in our home in kingwood, Texas, the suburbs a little bit north of Houston, Texas. And there was a huge cross on the wall. I’m just kidding. But I remember I it must have been, I believe is the year 2000. And there was a telethon playing on PBS. And it was like a pledge drive thing. And in between the segments where the people said, like sending your money to PBS, we need it. They were playing excerpts from Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band live in New York City, which, okay, so it must have been 2001 because it was in 2000, that that concert occurred. So it’s in 2001. And they played a song from it. And the song was out in the street. And I remember watching it, and for the first time, I didn’t know that I didn’t know what this band was called. I didn’t know what this song was. I didn’t know who Bruce Springsteen was. I was just experiencing the visual with the audio of this band with this, you know, with this kind of average, but very handsome looking. Yeah, Italian Irish man, this redheaded woman, this insanely happy looking the African American saxophone player, this drum, this drummer that look like somebody who’s accountant. Oh, I think I must have known because of Conan O’Brien cuz it was max Weinberg. And just like, and then a side guitar guy that looked like a pirate, like a mobster. Right, which is, of course, and, and I remember being so taken in a way where it’s like, it was almost it wasn’t, it wasn’t sexual, but it was something where it’s like a feeling that you don’t you didn’t have words for but you had this innate attraction in draw to this energy at first that I really remember Patty in that song for some reason that like her playing and the kind of the kind of contagious infectious joy of that and I remember watching that video and then loving it, and then never thinking or listening to Bruce Springsteen for four years. So that was 2001 and I didn’t start listening to him until 2005 that’s how I got into him is because I got an iPod a 60 gigabyte iPod with one of the Yeah, leave the one of the white ones with the click wheel.

Leah Jones 32:58
They I believe were only white the first year like I don’t think there were colors

Kevin T Porter 33:04
were there. Well, they were they were only white the first year and then they started out rolling different kinds of colors in Gen four of it because you could get the metallic like the steel. You get a black iPod you could get the black and red you to iPod with all of YouTube’s music, write it up on it. And I got this iPod and at the time my tastes was only I love me movie soundtracks. I love score in songs like pop songs from from movie soundtracks. Yeah, I was coming out of, I guess, listening to Christian music, but it was at the point where it’s like this is getting less and less relevant and more in the movie scores. But then there was just you know, 58 free gigabytes on the iPod. So I was like, Okay, well, what is music and I remember just googling like Top Albums, and I got to Rolling Stones list of the Top 500 songs of all time, which is a list put together by this boomer generation of like straight white guys, that all probably look like me. It’s very tragic. It’s like number one Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely. What was the number one song I think at the time was like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan.

Leah Jones 34:06
And yeah, like, Beatles wrote literally Rolling Stones. Yes.

Kevin T Porter 34:13
So I remember, I believe Born to Run in that incarnation of the top 500 songs was number 14 and so have downloaded it. I think from some Russian mp3 website where it’s like you paid for it, but you paid in Russian money. So it was like it was like 10 cents a song or something like that. I remember listening that I was like, kind of into it. And then 2005 is when his album devils and dust came out. So I listened to that. And that was just like a solo acoustic record like not typical more of like a side project. Yeah, and not a street band stuff. But then I remember listening to the song The opening track on Born to Run Thunder Road on the way to theater rehearsal and The year 2005 in listening to that song on the way to the school, and I was like, What is this song? What is this music and that was 11 first listen again. And it was it wasn’t like, you know, math lady mean where I was like piecing all together like the song from my childhood, but it was like that slowly coalesced and snowballed into loving Bruce right but but it was like a slow burn in a way, although I do remember to because I know we’re talking about like the maps of how we get into favorites. I was really into Bob Dylan before I was really into Bruce Springsteen. So I guess when I was when I was getting into that Rolling Stone list, I really I got I got legitimately into Dylan watch the documentaries, read the books got you know all those first albums on compact disc and listen to those. And I really really liked it, but I didn’t love it on a bone level. But I was just like, super, I super enjoyed it. You know, it’s like a movie I’d love to watch. But it wasn’t my favorite of all time. But it was it was the exact right bridge to get to Bruce Yes, because I feel like maybe someone even wrote this as criticism about Bruce but but it’s like if Dylan was for your mind and Elvis was for your body Bruce combine those things to be for both. And so there was like no intellectual or visceral compromise in the sense of experiencing his his music, which I really appreciate about it. So there was like a little dylanesque poetry but it did not come at the cost of any excitement in any way. And stinkle bone deep fun that you would have something like Elvis?

Leah Jones 36:33
Wow, it’s such a different color. So I’m 44 so I grew up on radio, and, and CDs, but I had one of my earlier interviews was there was on Sunday nights in Terre Haute, Indiana. There was alternative Sunday and it was the alternative music show. And for six hours once a week we got alternative music. That was how I learned how I learned that They Might Be Giants is in weird out or not alternative was like ha ha. And like, got into Jane’s Addiction is like burned in my brain as the first alternative CD I bought on my own, and then buying a ton of CDs, but also just like recording hours of the show onto tapes and listening to that. And then somehow I missed. I just kind of missed Napster because I didn’t have a computer or an iPod in the time when that first wave of digital downloads.

Kevin T Porter 37:37
Yes, yes, yes, yes.

Leah Jones 37:39
But I also had a big soundtrack movie score. Jazz, like I had a big a lot of years where that’s why I listened to you because a soundtrack gets you such it’s such an economical way to get a variety of music.

Kevin T Porter 37:56
Mm hmm.

Leah Jones 37:57
If the director is good at picking music.

Kevin T Porter 37:59
Yeah, it was like Quinn, Tarantino made me a mixtape Yeah, it’s called Jackie Brown from 1990. So you know, like yeah, it was great for before Spotify playlist like a personal curation of sorts.

Leah Jones 38:12
Yeah. So it’s really interesting to hear you talk about you know, seeing him hit you saw him on TV. But you’re at your reaction wasn’t Mom Dad? Can we make a donation and get this VHS? Like, can we get the DVD that they’re trying to like they’re trying to wound more donations with Bruce? Mm hmm. That it just lodged in there and was waiting to be rehydrated when you found it

Kevin T Porter 38:36
is I find that I find that so interesting. I just like I can I remember so little about my childhood and I guess I was 11 or 12 at the time that I watched it, but I’ll just remember it forever because of the feeling that it created if it feels like I don’t know and I don’t get woowoo with religious stuff or or anything else but it did feel as close to cosmic or or Destin as I’ve ever felt in in the sense of enjoying something where I’m like, I’m not in control of this. I feel like something is choosing me in this moment. And that’s a very strange and humbling thing to feel. I think. Yeah.

Leah Jones 39:14
That’s amazing. So then you you hear through the Rolling Stones list, you get to Born to Run Yeah. Which is probably like a more traditional way in. Oh, yeah.

Kevin T Porter 39:26
It’s not like Hey, Mom, I listened to devils and dust. I love Bruce Nauman. Yeah, it’s usually like, yeah, it’s because born in Iran is one of his biggest hits, obviously. Yeah. And then but it was still like a, it was a slow burn, because what was that? That was 2005. And then 2006. I mean, I could literally go year by year so much of high school and college is just marked of like, what was Bruce doing then? And then sorry, like Mark time? Yeah. And he’s just been with me since I’ve been 14 years old, you know. But the next year, he pulled out the secret sessions band record, which is like, not And if his original music It was a bunch of covers of folk songs with a huge folk band that he he put together of like two fiddle players a banjo player five horn players and it was all Wow, very interesting. Americana, bluegrass, country western sometimes Cajun sometimes swings sometimes gospel music. Yeah. And those concerts are the best he’s ever done in the 21st century. I still feel that way. But that was my first like, I didn’t get to go that okay, I get to go to those concerts. But that’s why they kind of retain mythic status in my head because it’s like, I didn’t even I didn’t get to see the sessions been. But those Yeah, live in Dublin. That was a live release them in a lot to me. And then my first concert I saw was when him in the band, the eastery band toured together. Yeah, in for the magic tour for that album in 2007. I flew out to Philadelphia, on in October 5 2007, was my first concert that I saw of him. And that was one of the last ones ever featuring the entire eastery band before their organ player. Danny Federici passed away the following year. So it’s like I got to see the whole whole Clarence pathway before Danny passed away. And yeah, I got to see like in the flesh in Philadelphia on the east coast. Yeah. You know, how did you privileged to see

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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My friend Mitch and my other friend Nicole

Yesterday, my friend Marc’s girlfriend died suddenly. He’d mentioned that she’d been under the weather and he was trying to be nurturing, but that they had ruled out COVID-19. I saw a tweet about her death go by just moments after Fred Willard’s death was announced. I thought about how happy Marc had been lately and how devastating this would be for him. I sent a short email to share my condolences and then I ordered up her most recent movie on Amazon.

Marc is not my friend.

I’ve never met him. I suppose had my life gone a different route, we might have crossed paths. Marc is, obviously, comedian and podcaster Marc Maron of WTF. I haven’t been a fan since the beginning, but I’ve listened regularly for a couple years and in the last 6 months have really come to feel an affection for him.

We’re two months into the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order in Chicago and his archives have been keeping me company. I live alone with two cats in a friendly six-flat. My neighbors have a group chat and we occasionally sit in the backyard together but apart. Every month or so, Jocelyn takes me to a grocery store in a car and occasionally friends drop by with treats.

But I’m alone.

I have lived alone since April 2005, when I bought my condo and have lived alone for the last 15 years at 4 different addresses. Occasionally a friend would come and stay for a month or so while they got housing sorted out, but I live alone.

Living alone in the before times meant going to an office more days than not, regular meetings at the synagogue, solo trips to bars, brunch with f

Anathem and Spidey

riends, movie theaters with shared popcorn and my Broadway in Chicago subscription. The before times for an introvert also meant skipping game night to stay home alone with my Netflix and chill cats. The before times meant occasional dates with total strangers from the internet to interview each other on a route to finding love. It was daily encounters with baristas, bartenders, coworkers, cashiers. Sharing food. Sharing recommendations. Spontaneous plans.

Now I’m alone.

Just me, my cats and my podcast friends.

Other than Marc Maron, most of my podcast friends are in the extended universe of How Did This Get Made and not, as you might expect, the comics I used to know back in the day.

For example… Jason Mantzoukas (my #1 Hollywood crush [which started by hearing him on an episode of Gilmore Guys and then a podcast rabbit hole that led to HDTGM,The League and everything else]) was a guest on Doughboys, so I listened to that episode. Fast forward and Nicole Byer (HDTGM All Star) does a live show of Why Won’t You Date Me in Chicago and her guests are the hosts of Doughboys and Gabrus from High & Mighty. Then I have to listen to the whole suite of live shows from the Headgum Live in Chicago and decide that I also now listen to Doughboys in addition to listening to three of Nicole’s podcasts weekly. (Why Won’t You Date Me, Newcomers and Best Friends).

I will let Doughboys play all night while I sleep and run through the day as company. Mitch and Nick talk about fast food and restaurant chains, so none of it is critical. If feels like I have some dudes just hanging out. Plenty of their jokes would get eyerolls or lectures from me in person, but as company… I love having them around. I think Spidey and Cowboy like hearing about Wolly and Irma from Mitch. (And Monkey and Buster at Marc’s house).

In addition to the intimate, one-way friendships that I have with podcast hosts, I’ve also entered a stage of “unadulterated fan and cheerleader of people and art.” I think it was when I was introduced to Hamilton that I learned that being an unironic fan of something is very fun.

I’ve seen Hamilton in New York, London and Chicago. I’ve gone alone, with friends and family. I have shirts and books and programs. I just loved it and didn’t apologize for loving something popular.

Screen Shot 2020-05-17 at 8.07.51 PM

Me in a custom shirt guarding Zouks on stage at the Chicago Theater during a live HDTGM. I said I was a fan, right?

After Hamilton, I turned my fandom energy to HDTGM and flew to Los Angeles after I was laid off to see my first live show at Largo. Then I saw the crew at 5 different live shows in Chicago. I made custom shirts, wrote thank you notes to Paul, June and Jason for being my podcast friends when I was recovering from my hysterectomy and then unemployment. I made IRL friends through a fan group. I seek out the projects each of the hosts are in and continue to celebrate the crew.

As I wrote about 2 years ago, I was so inspired by seeing a few HDTGM live shows that I tried stand-up comedy. I lasted a summer and just… I guess I’m okay with not doing comedy.

But in that window, I was podcast-matched with the Jackie and Laurie Show. Two women comics who have each worked the road for over 30 years talking about the business of comedy. I’m hooked and I’m a fan. I’ve seen them both live at Zanies in Chicago, gone to their Zoom comedy shows, tweet too many replies to both Jackie Kashian and Laurie Kilmartin and cheerlead their successes.

I live alone and the people I spend the most time with are podcast hosts. Friends who live in my phone and keep me company during a global pandemic.

Sometimes I catch myself and say, “Leah, they aren’t your friends.” Doesn’t matter. Marc isn’t my real friend, but I can still care that a woman he described with so much love and tenderness died suddenly. I can care about the comics who are sheltering in place alone and listening to as many podcasts as I am.

I’m grateful that I went to as many live shows as I did where I got to see many of my favorite podcast friends on stage. That I have those memories to carry me through until we’re allowed to gather and laugh together in an auditorium.

No blue tooth speaker will ever match the roar of Chicago Theater when Paul Scheer stokes the Team Fred/Team Sanity fires, but I’m glad we can be friends.


Other articles tackling the one-way intimacy of being a podcast listener.

  1. Glen Waldon on NPR: The One-Way Intimacy of Podcast Listening
  2. Noelle Acheson: The intimacy of podcasts and the monetization of relationships
  3. Philippa Goodrich: Intimacy Plus: Is that what makes podcasts so good?
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A day after Falsettos

Ezra told me that I would cry during act two of Falsettos, but I don’t cry so much at musicals when I go in cold. You might get a sniffle from me, but unless I’ve listened to the music in advance (Hamilton) or I’m seeing it for the second time (Hamilton, Band’s Visit, Great Comet)… not so much. When I pick up the cast recording after a show, I’m undone. (Spoilers ahead)

And so I took my icy cold heart to Falsetto’s last night with the knowledge that there was a bar mitzvah, a gay dad, a doctor and that Ezra thought I would cry.

Act One is set in NYC in 1979 and in the second song we learn that Marvin has left his wife for his male lover, telling her on the way out to get tested for syphilis and hepatitis. That’s when the specter of AIDS entered the theater and settled into my bones.

I’m 42. AIDS and unplanned pregnancies were the existential threat of our teens and early 20s. Unprotected sex could kill you or derail everything you worked so hard for. I interned in San Francisco in 1996 when life-sustaining drug cocktails were getting approved by the FDA, but so many people had already died and were still at risk of dying. I did a fair amount of programming about HIV-testing as an RA in college and in 2015, worked with people over the age of 50 with HIV in London. I think the existential threat of AIDS and HIV for Gen X is what school shootings are for Millenials and children growing up today.

Something bad was happening. I was undone.


As someone who takes Judaism seriously, I was undone again by Jason’s relationship to his Bar Mitzvah, Judaism and ultimately God. Ultimately Jason prays for God’s intervention.

I was undone again.

I don’t believe that God intervenes in our lives, but I have prayed for God’s intervention.  I am comfortable in this uncomfortable, unknowing place.


I wondered about the set. For most of the show, the actors arrange and rearrange large foam blocks into furniture. The idea of an office. The idea of a kitchen. The idea of a bedroom.

f_-_the_company_of_falsettos_-_0266r-1

For most of Act One, the only prop is a chess board. We get a few throw pillows and a shabbat candles when the mom moves in with her fiance and life finds a routine. But we don’t get real furniture until we are in the hospital.

One by one giant privacy curtains drop from the ceiling and I am undone. Every memory of every hospital visit piles up in my soul and spills out in sobs.

As we walked out of the theater, I tested my theory on my theater companion that the abstract blocks the vague memories of Jason’s traumatic childhood only coming together in vivid realism at the hospital. Later I wondered if the realistic props materialized as the family moved from trauma and depression to love.

In the hospital, we are with a non-traditional, chosen, loving family. Every person is interconnected and every prop is defined. When the family moves back into grief and depression, the blocks return to stage and we are transported to a cemetery.

What a group we four are
Four unlikely lovers
And we vow that we will
Buy the farm arm in arm
Four unlikely lovers
With heart
Let’s be scared together
Let’s pretend that nothing is awful

Let’s be scared together. Let’s pretend that nothing is awful.

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13 years (or more) of making challah

When I began to study for my conversion to Judaism, I was obsessed with baking challah. The braided egg bread that is served on Shabbat to remind of manna from heaven became a north star. If I could make challah from scratch, then I could become a Jew.

I’ve since learned that it’s not the cornerstone of cooking for all Jews like I was thought, but it is still one of the best dishes I’ve learned to make since I began this journey in 2004.

I documented the recipe I use on Flickr in 2007 and to this day, I google myself to find the photo album when it’s time to bake challah.

Ingredients

  • 2 packets of granulated yeast
  • 2 cups warm/hot water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 7 cups of white flour
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • ½ cup golden raisins (optional)
  • Poppy seeds (optional)

Step 1: Dissolve 2 packages granulated yeast in 2 cups warm/hot water. Add ½ cup sugar. Set aside.

Advice: The cookbook I got this from said tepid water—but I learned that tepid water won’t activate yeast. It’s important to use hot water (you can nuke it for a minute before you add the sugar and yeast), because you want to make sure that the yeast is still good. You do this by proofing it with sugar in hot water.  I’ve wasted so many ingredients when I was too impatient to proof the yeast.

Step 2: Mix together 7 cups of white flour and 2 teaspoons of salt.

Advice: This recipe is for white flour. For wheat bread recipe, go somewhere else. Another two loaves that I threw in the trash not knowing it couldn’t be a straight substitution.

Step 3: In a separate dish (I use a pyrex measuring cup) lightly beat two eggs and add to the flour mixture. Also add 1/3 cup of oil (I use olive oil) to the flour mixture.

Step 4. Stir it all up a bit to mix in the eggs.

Step 5. Add the proofed yeast, sugar, water mixture to the flour/egg/oil mixture.

Step 6: Stir it together with a big spoon and get it sticky enough that you can put it on the counter to knead the dough.

Step 7: Knead the dough on your counter. It’ll be sticky, but just get some flour on your hands. As Lotte Schaalman of blessed memory taught us – knead the dough until it feels like a woman’s breast.

Rise One: Place in a well oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise in a warm, draft free place until double in size. About two hours. Need a warm place? Turn on the oven for a minute and then turn it off. Pop the bowl in the oven covered with a towel for a couple hours.

Rise Two: Punch it down and let it rise for another hour

Shaping and third rise: Separate the dough in half and then into thirds and roll until you get long strands. I learned that dough needs to be stretched, then rested, then stretched again and then rest again… on and on until it’s a long enough strand to braid. Gluten is a tricky molecute and needs to be coaxed into stretching. If I need to manage time, I’ll put the braided dough into the fridge overnight and bake the following morning.

Divide dough and braid into 2 loaves. Traditionally you make two loaves, but this recipe is massive. It makes three loaves easy. I make 2-3 loaves and keep one, give away the rest. Place on a greased cookie sheet and allow to rise for two hours.

To braid, divide the dough into three parts. Roll each into a long snake of even thickness. Then pinch together the ends and braid as you do hair. As an alternative, overlap braids in the other and braid toward the end. What? I suggest going online to find some visuals for this one. That was what I did, it is actually very easy to do.

Baking: Brush with egg wash (1 part egg, 1 part water, well whisked) and sprinkle with seeds. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Knock on it to see if it sounds hallow – then you’ll know you have a good bake.

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Walking out on Women

 

img_20180620_184310_628

When I did comedy before, it probably took me a year or more before I called out The Baker’s Dozen for walking out of my set and the sets of other women comics. I remember calling them out from the stage at that weird Italian place connected to the Cubby Bear – I don’t remember what I said or how they reacted in the moment, just that they stopped walking out of my set.

Last night after Open Mic #5, the two hosts said hello at the crosswalk and one asked me if I had come to support another comic. “No, I performed tonight, but you walked out and missed my set.”

To be fair, he had a reasonable excuse for taking a phone call during the show he runs, but I also have fewer fucks to give. I told him he got to use that excuse once and that he’d used it up.

Then we chatted a bit about coming back to comedy and when I said that I’d performed with the trio of dudes in Hollywood that I used to perform with, he said, “Oh, so you saw how famous they got and…”

No.

I think that that #MeToo movement was making comedy a safer experience for women. I think that at 41, I have more to say than I did at 26. I think there are more paths to being successful in comedy in 2018 than in 2002. I think we live in a hellscape and making jokes might be my way to survive this administration.

I think Tig Notaro is showing me that a premise can last 10-20 minutes. I thinkHannah Gadsby is showing me comedy doesn’t have to be self-deprecating to be funny and the tension can last longer than 3 seconds. I think Jackie Kashian and Laurie Kilmartin are giving me an education on what hasn’t changed for women in comedy since I quit. I think Nicole Byer is showing me that I can take up space and date. I think June Diane Raphael is showing me that audiences in Chicago will cheer when politics interrupt comedy.

So, no. I’m not back on stage just to drop the names of the three dudes I knew in comedy once upon a time. It’s just easier to talk about them in casual conversation than to bring up the serious side of comedy.

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Like Riding a Bike

I went up again tonight – this time in a well lit Second City classroom. Things started at 9 and I expected to go up at 10:30, but didn’t go until 11:15 or so. Then I stayed to the bitter end (just another 30 minutes) to make sure the last five comics had someone to perform to.

As much as I keep hoping for a Mrs. Maisel beginners luck set that kills, I’m learning that returning to stand-up after 14 years is like riding a bike… That was sitting on the back porch for all those years without any maintenance.

I honestly don’t remember how to get better in 4-minute increments other than to keep showing up.

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Uphill Both Ways In the Snow

I’ve only been to one open mic, but I’m signed up for one on Saturday night to try again. I had a long call with a friend who did comedy with me back in the day and regaled him with all of the things that are different after 14 years away.

Screenshot 2018-06-08 12.52.16

I don’t want to spend any of my limited minutes on stage talking about how I used to walk to school, uphill, both ways in the snow about doing comedy in 02/04… so here are a few things that have (and haven’t) changed in the last 14 years.

  1. There are so many rooms. I wonder if I have a copy of The Reader from a typical week in 2003 to see how many open mics we used to have. I don’t remember there being more than two a night and most people only went to one. Now there are upwards of 10 every night of the week – even on weekends?!?!?
  2. YouTube didn’t exist when I did stand-up comedy. Or Twitter. Or Facebook. We had Friendster, Hotmail and plenty of us went to Kinko’s to write and print in the middle of the night.
  3. There might have been one comic who took their notes up on stage on a Palm Pilot in the early aughts, but rooms were all about paper notes. Last night about half of the comics took their notes up on their phone, which means they are spending time waking their phones up between jokes.
  4. Dudes in their 20s still tell rape jokes. Find a different starting point, gents.
  5. The room was a lot more diverse. There were only two women, but there were 5-6 Asian comics. In 02/04 a room was diverse if 3 of the 50 comics were black and 4 were women. In a list of only 15 comics, to have 1/3 be people of color – that was remarkable!
  6. Drink specials and kind bartenders (at least at Spyner’s) are still part of the scene. There were $2.50 beers last night.
  7. People have a lot to learn (and I have a lot to remember) about using mics – that’s the same as it always was. But as Jerry Seinfeld taught us in 2002, all you’ve got to do is get the mic out clean.

I’m going up again tomorrow night. I’m going to keep working this jokes and trying different rooms. We’ll see what happens.

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Let the record show

I went to Spyners on Western tonight and did four minutes at an open mic. It wasn’t the worst I’ve ever done, but it was far from the best.

But I dug up a tiny notebook, jotted down a few headlines and got on stage.

Huge thanks to Dee from the HDTGM fan group I’m in for joining me at the open mic to offer her support while I try to do this stand-up comedy thing again.

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Thinking Seriously about Comedy

This weekend I watched six hours of live comedy, something I haven’t done since I quit doing stand-up comedy sometime in 2004/05. All six hours were live shows for the podcast How Did This Get Made as part of the Onion Comedy Festival in Chicago – Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael, and Jason Mantzoukas (let’s be honest, swoon) turning fun-bad movies into comedy gold.

IMG_20180604_000402821-ANIMATION

The next day, I let my mind wander without a podcast in my ears or a screen in my face and tried to figure out – what is it about this trio that has me so excited about comedy again? Why have I spent so much time and money to be in the same room with these lovable goofballs, when they come to my phone for free every week? Why do I seek out podcasts where they are each featured guests?

And why do I want to get back on stage after quitting comedy over 10 years ago?

***

I moved to Chicago to try my hand at being a stand-up comic based on winning the Snowdown Joke Down in Durango, Colorado in January 2002. In a town of 14,000 people where I managed the local rape crisis hotline, I put my future in the hands of three judges during the “locals only” winter festival. snowdownparade

Snowdown is basically if the fine folks of Stars Hollow let the fraternity brothers from Neighbors plan a winter festival. Lots of drinking, lots of costumes and full buy-in from all locals.

When I lived in Durango, I realized that I could really get my friends laughing at poker night and made the immediate leap in my brain that jokes at a dinner table could turn into a stand-up comedy routine that would have me traveling the country within two years.

I won the stand-up portion of the Joke Down, planned my move to Chicago and hosted a going away party in the Ska Brewing warehouse that doubled as a fundraiser for the Rape Intervention Team. When I was on the local radio station doing a promo for the event, the DJ self-disclosed that he was a survivor of childhood sexual assault. Two weeks later we shared a stage and made a friendly room roar with laughter. Then I packed up my truck and moved to Chicago.

***

Sunday – Tequila Roadhouse (RIP). Monday – Lyon’s Den (RIP). Tuesday – Cubby Bear. Wednesday – Frankie J’s (RIP). Thursday – Second City Conservatory shows.

Practically every night of the week I was at an open mic learning to be a stand-up comic or at Second City cheering on my friends in their conservatory shows. I went up in rooms where the list was 50 comics long and regularly shared the stage with people who now have movies (Kumail Nanjiani), TV shows (Pete Holmes) and multiple specials and albums (Kyle Kinane).

When I tell the story of why I quit comedy, I always say, “and then I auditioned for the first season of Last Comic Standing. I stood in an alley for 6 hours in January with my peers and realized, in the light of day, that these weren’t my people.”

The line included a guy who told the same child-rape joke every week. The guy who offered women rides home from open mics, but then solicited blow jobs for stage time. The group of men I privately called The Bakers Dozen, because about 12-13 would always walk out of my set (or that of another woman) to smoke up in the alley.

When I fact-checked myself, the audition for Last Comic Standing was in my first 6 months in Chicago, but I did comedy for 2 years before I quit and switched to writing, blogging, occasional storytelling, converting to Judaism and ultimately climbing the corporate ladder.

But my overwhelming memory of quitting comedy was that I didn’t find my tribe in the rooms I visited every night.  I didn’t do drugs,  I didn’t date in comedy circles and I didn’t work blue. I didn’t fit in, so I eventually called it quits.

***

I spent the last 12 years aggressively climbing the corporate ladder in public relations. Two agencies, five or six promotions, countless new business meetings, and a Master’s from Northwestern.

My brief (and now distant) stint in stand-up comedy served me well. No CEO is scarier than a drunk crowd at the Cubby Bear. No reporter is going to dismiss me as harshly as an audience member who once said to me, “Lady, we’re trying to have fun here, can you just put down the microphone?” I was pretty much bullet-proof in a board room thanks to those open mics, but I never stopped being a stick in the mud.

***

In 2012, I finally watched The West Wing and fell in love with it. A few years later, the podcast The West Wing Weekly launched and I finally got into podcasts. Then the Gilmore Girls Reboot was announced, so I caught up on Gilmore Girls and added the podcast Gilmore Guys to my list.

pete holmes jason

Then there was this guest who really caught my ear. He was talking about rape culture and taking feminism very seriously. Huh… who was that? Jason Mantzoukas. Shrug. I had no idea who he was at the time, but he plugged his podcast called How Did This Get Made and I added it to my queue. I had some good laughs over bad movies and dug up all sorts of older interviews of Jason on other podcasts.

Eventually I found Jason on Pete Holmes’ podcast You Made It Weird. Pete is one of the guys I have fond memories of from The Lyon’s Den, even though I am jealous of his success in a way that is not attractive… in a regret-laden-road-not-traveled way. Then I listened to other interviews Pete did with people I knew back in the day.

Then Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon released their movie – The Big Sick. Screenshot 2018-06-05 14.58.28A Romantic Comedy set in Chicago’s comedy scene. Kumail telling jokes that I’d heard him tell at open mics. A movie that plunged me deep into nostalgia for the Lyon’s Den and doing stand-up comedy.

I saw The Big Sick three times in the theater. I posted about it so much that Kumail  asked me how crowds were reacting. My friends went at my urging and also loved it.

A RomCom that centers on a group of comics who have each other’s backs. A small tribe of supportive friends. A RomCom that took place in the fictionalized bar I went to every week for two years.

***

Then #MeToo happened.

I start thinking about my clients from the Rape Intervention Team. I do the math and add the 16 years since I left the job to the 13-year-old age of my last client. She’s almost 30 if she’s still alive. Was she able to heal and become a survivor?

I start thinking about the rape jokes and sexual harassment in the comedy scene when I was in it. I talk to some of those guys I knew from open mics who are trying to support #metoo now, but didn’t do anything to help the women they came up with.

***

And then this weekend, I went to see six hours of live comedy. Before every show, Paul Scheer tells the audience that during the Q&A it is unacceptable to make racist, sexist or homophobic jokes.

In the middle of the show about Striptease, June Diane Raphael gave an extemporaneous talk about the dangers of the movie. About workers rights, women’s rights, legalization of sex work and ending the mother/whore dichotomy.

And what did her two male cohosts do? They listened.

And what did the rowdy crowd do? A crowd there to laugh about a greased up Burt Reynolds and a woman who dances with a python named Monty?

They listened and cheered. An audience at a comedy show in Chicago, cheering during and after a speech about women’s and worker’s rights – things have changed.

***

Through How Did This Get Made, I found three comics and countless guests who I think  would be my tribe if I’d stayed in comedy. It didn’t happen overnight, but it seems to be that comedy is now a place where women can be political and funny and safe. Where men (not all men, unfortunately) are trying to be funny without being misogynist. Where even Jason Mantzoukas, who is known for playing outrageous, sex-obsessed maniacs, is someone I count on in interviews to be thoughtful about sexism and rape culture.

***

This winter, I MCed a talent show at a Jewish retreat and a friend who has known me in Jewish conference circles for a decade said, “Leah, why didn’t I know that you’re funny? You’re really funny. You aren’t funny online, but I laughed so much tonight.”

I told him that it’s not my role in Jewish conferences. We usually have real stand-up comics in the mix – like Benji Lovitt or Michelle Collins. No need for a failed stand-up comic to be funny when there are professionals in the room.

But maybe it’s time.

I’m no longer aggressively climbing the corporate ladder. I started my own business to plan retreats and facilitate meetings, but I have more time to think and more flexibility for open mics. (And more mornings when I can sleep off open mics)

But maybe it’s time.

There are open mics that are women-only spaces now. There are social clubs for women in comedy. There are role models other than Ellen and Roseanne Barr.

Maybe it’s time.

***

Thank you to Paul, June Diane and Jason for showing me that my people are in the comedy world today. I think it’s time to try again.

 

 

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Eulogy for my Aunt Barb

I missed the boat on delivering a proper eulogy for my Aunt Barb at her funeral on Sunday, so here’s what I would’ve said if I’d realized the floor was open.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Leah Jones – Larry and Linda’s daughter. Aunt Barb was my great aunt – Uncle Jimmy is my late grandma’s little brother. I didn’t realize until today that Jimmy and Barbara were the cool, young aunt and uncle to my parents, because to me they were always the grown ups.

When we got here today, we heard that Aunt Barb’s visitation yesterday is one of the biggest that Brazil has ever seen. Was it 184 cars of people that came through?

Instead of focusing on her biography – the over 50 years of membership to her church, over 50 years of service to the Reelsville Volunteer Fire Department or 62 years of marriage to Uncle Jimmy – I want to share one lesson that we can all take with us when we leave the firehouse today. Something that Aunt Barb taught me and probably all of us.

The lesson is simple.

Show up.

Just… show up.

I can’t think of a single family celebration – holiday, wedding, funeral, graduation or birthday – when Jimmy and Barb didn’t show up. If two things were scheduled on the same day and hours apart, like my sister and my high school graduations, Jimmy and Barb would split the duties and show up.

Eavesdropping today, I realize she didn’t just show up for the Proctor, Cohn and Jones families. She showed up for all of you. She went to countless football games, pancake breakfasts, bible studies, recitals, weddings, graduations and funerals.

You knew she would be there. Didn’t it feel good to know she would be there? When you saw their minivan pull into the driveway or heard Jim and Barb call hello from the door?

More than that.

We never worried about how she would show up. To my knowledge, nobody ever worried about Barb bringing an argument to the holiday table – nothing beyond whether you should put noodles on your mashed potatoes or gravy.

Obviously gravy goes on the mashed potatoes. Noodles are their own dish.

Even in a world where religion can be contentious and I converted to Judaism, she made sure I knew that I should still show up and that she would still show up for me.

So I want to thank you. Everyone in this room. You have all taken this lesson to heart without realizing it.

You showed up today.

I’ve never been to a funeral where the staff had to keep opening the walls and adding more chairs like this.

It means so much to her family that you are here and that you’ll continue to be here to support Uncle Jimmy, her mom Grace, Tracy, Connie and all the grand kids, great grands and her kids.

Thank you.

 

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