Where It All Began-How I Came Up The Material For “Empathy On Sale”

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I recently finished recording my 5th Stand Up Comedy Album. I’ve recorded 6 shows in 6 different cities and 6 different venues! Each show, city and venue has its own special aura about it. I know it’s weird to hear me say something like aura, but I’m not sure what else to describe it as. Between a listening room, a rock club, an improv theater, a house show, a punk room and a theater, each room has its own unique personality that I wanted to capture.

I’ve been working on this show for about a year and half. I’ve been thinking about what I address in the show far longer than that.

I think the idea for this album was spawned after the 2016 election. Not because of Donald Trump. He’s not as important. Trump is a symptom of a disease that’s been plaguing us for long time. And I think complacency made people forget about the disease and now we’re trying to oust a boil in a body that’s fighting cancer.

It’s about the people. The people that tried to make a better a world with their votes. Any votes. I travel everywhere, and some of my favorite cities to come back to are in the South and the Midwest. This shocks most people. “You don’t like New York? Or L.A? That’s where celebrities are made!

New York is loud and mean. Some people like that. I don’t. My wife likes it. I love my wife. So if we end up there then that’s what happens. But I never looked to move to New York. I was told for years by a lot of comedians that if you wanted to “make it” in comedy you need to go to either LA or New York. I doubt it. I’m doing just fine performing to people that this country seems to have forgotten or has a bad attitude towards.

The night of the 2016 election I was in Pensacola Florida. I was in a divey little bar with about 12 people in the audience. They were a fun little crowd. But it was clear that I was going to be the distraction to the result. I’m not the best distraction considering I’m going to talk about all the issues but add hope at the end. At the end of my set I walked outside and saw one of the younger people that was at my show and we struck up a conversation.

I like your set,” he started, “But it all just made me feel like a total asshole!

Well that’s the opposite of how I want you want you to feel after my set. What’s up?” I replied.

Well I did something pretty disgusting today…I voted.

Who’d you vote for?

Well I voted for Trump…

Can I ask why? I’m not going to get mad at you. That won’t change your vote, but I am curious.

He scoffed at the question and said he didn’t want to have that discussion. About 2 minutes later he came back out and said “Well look man, I was a Bernie supporter through and through. And what happened to him at the DNC I couldn’t bring myself to vote for Clinton. She’s a war-mongering, horrible person that can’t be trusted. So I decided that if I’m going to vote I’ll at least vote for the entertainment of the disaster. So I went with Trump!

I laughed. It’s the ultimate protest vote. “I’m sorry to hear that man. I was a Bernie guy too.” I responded. But his story kept ringing in my head for the next few days. I told his story to a few people. Some called him stupid, some thought that didn’t happen and some just ignored. But again, we’ve ignored people in the middle of country and then a corporate tyrant spoke them and won. So maybe we should pay attention to them and stop belittling them.

But this young man’s story wasn’t unique, but it was important. A lot of Bernie people voted for Trump. I’ve met a bunch of them. I’ll give some of you a moment to get your head back in the right place.

What it shows me is the power of betrayal. Bernie Sanders spoke to people directly. He showed them compassion and understanding. He was willing to stand up for their rights. And when the DNC stole the election from him to coronate their Corporate Queen, Hillary Clinton, people were angry. Angry enough to say “Fuck you, we’re ready to watch it all burn!” I guess this was a different interpretation of the phrase “Feel The Bern!

I’m sure I lost a few of you at that paragraph, but that’s ok.

About a week later I was in Anderson, SC. I was closing out a show and about 8 people were in the room. Plus a few comedians in the back. One the comedians went up and made a statement about Trump and an audience member exclaimed “FUCK YES TRUMP!” That was an interesting remark. I kept an eye on this man.

I got on stage and made a few remarks about the room and then I turned to the gentleman that exclaimed and asked “Now you were guy that was excited about the mention of Trump right?

He smiles and says “Hell yeah man!

Ok, can I ask why you voted for him?” He scoffs. “Look I’m not going to get mad at you. That won’t change your vote. But I’m a curious person, so I want to why? What was appealing to you about that man!

Well I like that he wasn’t Hillary!” There’s a big laugh at his own statement. “But I also like that he’s not a politician. He’s honest and runs a business. He says it like it is, you know? He talks like a regular person!

A second guy chimes in and says, “Yeah I didn’t want to vote for Hillary either. And that Bernie guy was too much of a Socialist!

Interesting. I’m actually a big Bernie supporter! I like him.” I said. It’s all I could say. I wanted to know more. So I looked at the first guy and said “Well you know that he’s had a bunch of failing businesses right? That doesn’t really make him a good businessman, right?

He responds, “Nah man, that was the government. He got screwed over by the government. That’s what happens!

So I turned to the second guy. “What else other than the not Hillary thing did you like about him?

Well,” the second guy began, “He’s good to Veterans. I’m a Veteran and that was really important to me. I wants us to be taken care of.

Huh? Did you see that report about Trump saying some shit about that Iraq Vet? He was pretty insulting there and lot of other Veterans called him out about that. He was pretty unapologetic about insulting to that Vet. That’s not great right?” I remarked.

No, no that was the media now. They lie. The media lies and makes up the truth. It’s not fair, you know. I’ve heard him say nice things about Vets and the media is just lying about that stuff!

We didn’t go much further because the 2 men started getting a little uncomfortable I didn’t want to push it too far. Plus I’m fairly certain the 4 people in the room were bored. The rest of my set was mostly about how the Veteran did psychedelics with his uncle and had to drive them 2 hours away to get snacks and then drive them back.

These were very interesting responses. They aren’t wrong. Governments do disrupt businesses. But usually not the businesses of corporate tyrannies like the Trump Empire but rather the small business guy. I’d wager that the first guy owned a small business and because of some regulations he didn’t get off the ground too well. He probably also didn’t get a small $1 million loan that he never had to pay back.

And the media does lie! They twist and turn narratives to help themselves. Not once in the last 3 years has CNN, MSNBC or Fox News come out said “We helped Trump get elected because we gave him more coverage than any other candidate because we love ratings and money! We’re slaves to our own greed and we took you all down for it!

Both of these guys are teetering on the truth. A lot of us are. A lot of us on both sides have a hard time accepting that we made a mistake or worshiped the wrong person or looked for perfection in an imperfect world. The truth is far from perfect. The truth is messy and riddled in our own insecurities.

A week later I was back in DC and at an open mic. I was talking to a black comic about my Bernie pin (yes I still wear one). A younger female comic came out and stared at my pin and said “Bernie Sanders huh? So you want to explain to me why you got Trump elected! You can’t just vote for Hillary like you were supposed to?! Why would you want a racist like Trump in office!

I paused and looked back at the black comic giggling to himself. I responded “Well, first off I’m an immigrant and can’t vote. But, Hillary Clinton doesn’t have a spotless record. She was for the 3 strike law that got a lot of black people incarcerated and that’s pretty racist. She also wouldn’t answer a BLM activist when she was politely asked about her ‘Super-predator’ comment. Also the DNC wanted to use Bernie’s Judaism against him to get votes. She was pro-DOMA and anti-gay and as far as I’m aware hasn’t said anything about that. Plus she’s a war monger and doesn’t seem to really care about anything except power and money…

She scoffs! “I don’t have time for shit!” And she storms off! I don’t know if she was teetering on anything but a tantrum.

There were more interactions throughout the rest of the year. People attacking 3rd party voters. Violence in the streets from the left and the liberals. Friends against friends. Neighbors and family members going against each other. Hero worship to an unhealthy degree. Within the first few weeks of the election I decided I am not going to blame anyone for who they voted. There’s no point in it. It won’t change the outcome of the present, and sure as hell won’t help the outcome of future ones.

I will be curious about why you voted for whom you voted. I will hunting for the facts and to make sure that we don’t forget our own history. And more importantly I want to make sure we all know that we need to talk to each other to figure out where we’re all coming to work together for a better future. It’s not all that hard. It does take some effort. It means putting your anger away realizing that your hero and the candidate you put all your trust into isn’t perfect. And neither are we and that’s ok.

I wrote this show as a reminder to myself as much as one for everyone else. We all have our reasons for what we did. Good or bad. Listen and try to understand each other. We’re all teetering on the truth. The truth is we’re all in the same fight. And it’s not against each other.