Thursday, December 31, 2009

Done with Decade one of Century 21
The fiscal year end of my corporation is also the calendar year. So it is rare that I come to a New Year's Eve in a happy mood. I hold my breath hoping that we have withheld enough to pay the cover charge for living in Los Angeles, California, USA. It is the hope that next year will be better than the year before that weighs on my mind tonight.

Show business in never going to be a stable job. You are up and you are down and the perception is never the reality. People see your name in the paper and assume that publicity is comparable to income. Popularity and prosperity are not the same thing.

I can never remember a time when I came into a new year knowing exactly how much I would make, where I would be or when I could plan a vacation. There was one year I thought I knew, there was enough work on the books that I didn't have to be concerned about the monthly nut. However, by March of that year my entire calendar had changed and the tour I thought was a certain, cancelled. It was a year to punt and scramble.

The Broadway opening of my show was postponed three times, triggering a fire drill to make up for the jobs I turned down in anticipation. There was no way to make them up, I just hoped that there would be others.

During the SOAP days we were always 13 weeks from cancellation. After the fourth year of uncertainty we all began to settle in and made plans to return in the fall, that May they canceled the show.

But at the end of each year I realize that some how we made it. Somehow the jobs were there and it didn't matter if they were not booked so far ahead. But economic memory is very short and the lesson that prosperity is a state of mind not a balance sheet is hard to hold onto.

The last time the drain backed up I remember calling the plumber and thinking, "here is a job that wasn't on his calendar this morning." Doesn't he sit around and hope that there will be enough leaks and clogs to make his mortgage. Rarely to people schedule a pipe break. In that way I feel rather like a plumber, with one huge exception. The prospects of a pipe leaking or a drain clogging are greater than someone waking up saying, "We need a show, call a ventriloquist and see if you can get him out here this morning."

I hope that 2010 is better than 2009, as I hoped 2009 was better than 2008, etc. etc.... and I am sure I am not alone. Maybe there is something we can all do to make it so, and if you figure out what that is... let me know.

Happy New Years Eve,
Jay

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Another View
A view from the balcony the day we left New Jersey. I am told it continued to get colder.

This balcony became a ring side view of Captain Sully's plane landing in the Hudson river. It landed just to the right of the tall building. The regular occupant of this apartment said he had a coffee and watched history unfold.

As you were,
Jay

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Picture's Worth 1000 words...

This was the view of Manhattan out the windows Christmas Eve day. Pretty spectacular. Of course by Christmas Day it was raining and continued through the week end. Even with this view I am glad to be back home in So.Cal. I have promised myself never to drive in the State of New Jersey again. The freeway system was obviously designed by monkeys without rulers.

Today I officially ran out of things to write. I have reached the end of my blogging abilities.

As you were,
Jay

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Two and Only in New York

Having just returned from New York I am planning a trip back. Here are the details that appeared in the blurb producer Dan Whitten sent around over the Holidays.

Personally I have never liked this poster, but it seems the New York producers love it. I don't think you can judge The Two and Only by a poster anyway, but I hope it doesn't turn people off from attending. This will be a great space to see the show.

I get letters all the time from people asking when the show is in, Chicago, Atlanta, Florida etc. Not sure when we will be in those places yet. However, if you are in New York the weekend of Jan 8-10 come on by.

New York, NY (December 7, 2009) – Jay Johnson: The Two and Only!, winner of the 2007 Tony Award for Best Special Theatrical Event, will return to New York, producer Dan Whitten of TIGER Theatricals announced today. The one-weekend only event will play from January 8-10, 2010, at Theatre at Saint Peters (54th Street, just east of Lexington Avenue).

Jay Johnson: The Two and Only! had its Broadway premiere at the Helen Hayes’ Theater in September 2006, following an extended run Off-Broadway at the Atlantic Theatre in 2004. The acclaimed show also played London’s West End, and cities across America (and is at Los Angeles’ Colony Theatre from December 3- 15). During the Broadway season, Jay’s famed puppet ‘Bob’ was inducted into the Smithsonian Institution where he resides today.

Jay Johnson: The Two and Only! is written and performed by Jay Johnson; Created by Jay Johnson, Murphy Cross and Paul Kreppel and directed by Murphy Cross and Paul Kreppel Produced by Dan Whitten and TIGER Theatricals

Jay Johnson: The Two and Only! will play the following performance schedule: Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm, and Sunday at 2:30pm and 7:30pm. Tickets are $45 and are available online 24/7 or by calling (212) 935-5820 Monday-Friday from 12-6PM. Student rush tickets will be $25.00 and available (cash only) at the box office; limit 2 per valid student ID, and they may be purchased any time on the day of performance. see www.thetwoandonly.com for more information on the show

As you were,
Jay

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

New Jersey

Just a quick thumb typed note to say that driving in New Jersey is a challenge even for a Los Angelian. The Jersey philosophy being why build another lane of traffic when a "merge" sign is so cheap? And the maximum protected space between merging cars is no greater than the average coat of paint or rust depending on the age of the vehicle.

Seems that we are staying a great distance away from all the family we need to see, although our temporary abode is beautiful. A 14th floor view of Manhattan with the Hudson in the fore ground.

Happy holidays to all.
As you were,
Jay
www.monkeyjoke.com

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saturday -
I am doing a show I wrote for the Performing Arts Center called "The Gift" today and tonight. It is their dance show for the holidays. I wrote it last year and performed the role as narrator, they asked me to reprise the role this year. I'm glad I can do it.

It really is great to see how the older students at the Performing Arts Center School have grown and watch the new students start their dancing career. I am always amazed by the talent and dedication of dancers. This will be my swan song for the year. No more shows until I go back to New York on Jan. 7th to do "The Two and Only". Everyone I have talked to is looking forward to a better year in 2010. '09 and '08 were really not the vanguard years of the past for anyone I know.

I have started hearing everyone refer to the new year as "twenty-ten" not "two thousand and ten" which is a change. I suppose we have finally graduated from the "aught" years. The old timers used to refer to the early 1900's as "nineteen aught six". I think it would correctly be "nineteen naught six". The definition of "aught" is "anything at all", while "naught" is a synonym for zero.

This brief bit of semantic correctness is brought to you by the letter "J" and the number "0".
Cue the music :
Fade Out

As you were,
Jay

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Gary Larson
Sometimes when people ask me what I would want to be if I was not doing what I am, I tell them I would like to be a cartoonist like Gary Larson. Funny and irreverent and a job that only requires a pen, paper and imagination. Someone told me that between his books, his cartoon strip, calendars, cups, postcards and greeting cards each one of his drawings was licensed about eleven times.

On this holiday season I am reminded of one of his cartoons. There is a reindeer with a large red nose sitting in the leather chair of his macho den. Around him is a gun rack and the mounted heads of several reindeer with the names Donner, Cupid and Blitzen. The caption is simply:
"All of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names."

Sort of fits my bipolar thoughts of the day.
As you were,
Jay

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wednesday and ....
That is as far as I got writing my blog this morning as my fingers stumbled on the keyboard and published the entry. I did not know that I could publish and entry with a key stroke. I doubt that I could recreate that sequence of events again.

The Colony run is over and I really miss it. There is a phenomenon that I can never get used to, but it occurs every time I do the show in town. Only days after I close there are some who say, "I missed your show. The next time you are in town, let me know. I would love to come." Since it has been 3 years since my show was in town, I tried my best to let everyone know it was here. It was booked a year in advance. At times I thought I was being a little too pushy, and some people got multiple notices just because I didn't want to miss anyone who might want to come. I sent emails and FaceBooked initiations. Well, we closed on Sunday and those same people, people I know I sent invitations to are now saying to me, " I missed your show. The next time you are in town, let me know. I would love to come." Bull shit. I don't believe it. People who want to come, will come. To the rest... this is the official notice that you are on your own.

I am trying to get excited about the run at the York Theatre in New York. For some reason it just doesn't seem real to me yet. I can't find that excitement that New York has always held. I'm sure it will come it just hasn't found it's time yet. We have to get through the holidays and all.

I do mean "get through" the holidays. For me that is sometimes an effort. I am married to the most wonderful woman in the world and have been for a long time. She is the original Christmas Elf and sets her joy clock each year with the Christmas Holidays. Now you might think that this joy and happiness of the season would rub off on me, but I am the original Grinch. I have to look for ways to turn my depression of the season into a positive. And, for some reason my psychosis is such that it is not important just to be depressed, it is necessary for me to make sure everyone to knows that I am depressed. That makes my attitude take a very toxic turn for the next few weeks. After years of being around me, this Anti-Christmas feeling is nothing new to my family. Each year I think "this is the year I will be able to keep it to myself," and each year I can never find the lid shut it off.

So... I am trying to recall good memories of the times, and there are many. It is a matter of what you dwell on.

I remember the time my youngest son said, "Is Santa Claus real, Dad?" Of course I tried to tell him that the Santa was the spirit of Christmas, the symbol of selfless giving and the icon of the season. He was having none of it. After listening to my esoteric explanation he said, "Is there a really a man with a white beard and a red suit that comes down the Chimney?" He wanted as simple answer which in that case was "No." He was satisfied. Not disappointed except in my first answer.

I may not post every day, like I have been doing for awhile. My new rule is: If you can't find something funny or humorous to say then shut up.
As you were,
Jay

Monday, December 14, 2009

On to New York
The Colony was a total success. Great audiences, great shows, full houses and I even sold a couple of paintings. Today I will have to go over and close the gallery and clean out my dressing room. Not my favorite part of the show... the closing. I would rather just be taking a couple days off and going back there.

Now it is on to New York for a four day run at the York Theatre Jan 8 through the 10th. It will be great fun to be back in New York for a while, although I understand it is as cold as the proverbial witch's... well you know. But for those of you on the East coast who have climitized yourselves to the elements, see you there.

Rant of the day goes to a case reported in the LA Times yesterday. A girl was suspended from her High School for two days for posting a video of herself and other girls "name calling" and maligning one of their class mates in a very vicious way. The victim was humiliated and told the councilor that she could not come to school to face all the people who had watched it.

The suspended bully sued the school and won a judgement based on the principle of "free speech". It seems the court ruled the school did not have the right to punish the bully since the posting did not create substantial disruption to classes. But here is the kicker.

Her father was her attorney. In a statement he said the "school did not have the right to act as 'super parent' " I think she needed a super parent since there is obviously no parenting from her Lawyer father now. Not only did he not teach her that bullying and hurting some one's feeling is wrong, he rewarded her behavior by making it a "freedom of speech" case. How many wrong signals did he send his teen age daughter.

I am wondering what he would have done if it had been his daughter on the receiving end of the bullying? Perhaps his idea of freedom of speech and punishment would have been altered. Not all lawyers are scum, but there are enough to taint the profession. There are modern legal nerds who care more about the letter of the law than the spirit or feelings of intent; those who want their pound of legal flesh even though it kills the host.

Can we not teach kids that the cyber world of instant communication has its consequences? If they are going to have the right to use this technology, they also have the responsibility to use it humanely and politely. I don't think calling cyber bullying freedom of speech is any more reasonable than calling it a loan when the bully beats you up and steals your lunch money.

As you were,
Jay



Saturday, December 12, 2009

Closing the Two and Only
We close Sunday night. This has been one of the best runs for this show since we began at the WhiteFire on Ventura Blvd. We still have three shows to do and I am trying to make time stand still to relish them. No pressure, nothing riding on it except to do the best show we can night to night. I really hate to see it come to an end, but every run must. When I first started on the road to Broadway, one of my most enlightened friends said, "This show is sort of a spiritual journey for you, isn't it?" I had never thought of it that way, but it is certainly what the show has become for me.

Barbara Beckley said before we opened that it would all go too fast and she is absolutely right. The days have streaked by and there has not been a down audience yet. I still think that this is the perfect marriage between theatre and show. I just works so well here. Every seat is good and every seat has been mostly filled.

Thursday night we had to stop to show when someone in the audience became ill. That is something that I never had to deal with before. It happened during my story about meeting Art which is one of the more heartfelt moments. It suddenly became obvious that we needed to turn up the house lights and get someone help. After a brief bit of unrehearsed excitement we were back into it. As the paramedics were helping the man from the audience he turned to me and said, "Very nice show".

I truly wish that I could do this show every night in a theatre like the Colony for audiences like we have been experiencing. I will try to curb my manic depression and not see it as the closing night, but a start to the next run where ever that might be. And for now that will be in New York at the York Theatre opening for a four day run Jan. 8th. Heads up to my New York friends.
As you were,
Jay


Friday, December 11, 2009

The Best Thank You
This is a "Thank you" or actually "Thak" you letter I got from Ruben who was at the matinee last Sunday. He is the 10 year old son of a friend.

Ruben wins the prize for best Thank you note of the run and perhaps the season.


Thanks for the thoughtful note and the big laugh, Ruben.
As you were,
Jay


Thursday, December 10, 2009

The New Rancher
Tired of the confines of the city and wanting some solitude a guy builds his dream house in the middle of a Nevada desert. After the house is completed he sits on his new porch, alone, enjoying the endless view. On the horizon he sees a dust cloud. The longer he looks, he realizes that the cloud is getting closer and closer. Finally the cloud is close enough for the man to see that it is a horse and rider far off in the distance riding toward him.

Hours later the rider and horse arrive at the porch of the mans house. "Howdy, " the rider says, "My name is Anderson... I am your closest neighbor. I live about three quarters of a day's ride due east of you here. I just wanted to ride by and say welcome to the neighborhood."
"Well thank you" said the new home owner.
"As a matter of fact," says Anderson, "I am throwing a party in your honor, sort of a welcome to the neighborhood party at my house tomorrow night. I hope you like drinkin', gambling, eatin', fightin', and having sex cause there is going to be plenty of that. Just allow enough time to get there by 8:00pm."
"That sounds great... is there anything I can bring?"
"Naw, I got it covered, " says Anderson "....just gonna to be the two of us."

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

I Blame Phil Donahue
If you don't know Phil Donahue or the Phil Donahue Show then you probably don't remember a time when you had to find a pay phone to call home. The Phil Donahue Show still holds the record for the longest continuous run of any syndicated talk show in U.S. television history. (Deal with that Oprah). His was the first talk show to have "controversial" guests on. There would be the cross dresser or the atheist or the occasional sex addict, tame by the guest list on the Jerry Springer Show today, but pushing it in the 70's and 80's. Phil is intelligent and could take a neutral position as host that was provocative, but not aggressive or insulting to his guests. But because of his success and innovations he may have ushered in an era of opinionated rudeness that thrives today.

After his interview he would take a microphone out into the crowd and let the audience ask questions of the guest. That was something new. Usually an audience was just there as a passive observer, the object of the discourse not a participant. It was a brilliant segment of the show at the time, but it was of a different time. More than a decade after his show ended and as that idea has been repeated by less able hosts it has degraded into an insult-fest of mudslinging and uncivilized rudeness.

The bastard seed of that brilliance gave birth to the Jerry Springer Show and Bill O'Reiley insult journalism. Audiences now feel they have the right and the misguided duty to comment on anything and everything they see and hear. Phil allowed the audience to ask questions. The narcissism of the crowd soon turned those questions into opinion and insults.

We have now become a society of commentors. We comment on anything and everything. Nothing is too complicated, too sensitive nor too personal that perfect strangers don't feel free to express their opinion about it. Every FaceBook action has a "comment" button, every editorial an email address and every radio station a call in number. And these comments are not for the most part researched, informed, intelligent opinions just a knee jerk ( I use the word jerk in all its contexts) reaction of "OMG WTF are you stupid?" I have written about this before in a previous blog on rudeness, but this rudeness has been born out of misguided sense of entitlement.

Maybe it is wrong to totally blame Phil. He may have invented the idea but others exploited it. He was smart and his audiences were smart back then. The IQ of the average Jerry Springer audience today is equivalent to pond algae. And Phil did, after all, have the good sense to go off the air in 1996 long before the Bush years when everyone knew they were smarter than the President.

I doubt we can get the genie back in the bottle, its sort of a free speech issue and everyone is entitled to an opinion. You can even have an opinion about an opinion, you can comment on a comment. Soon perhaps nothing will be taken as knowledge or truth just a stupid idea by some cloistered thinker with too much time on his hands...... WTF Mr. Plato?
As you were,
Jay

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

More Strange Happenings
Sunday night was the end of a really great week at the Colony Theatre. The shows are going well and the crowds have been fabulous. Spaulding (seen here) has always had a mind of his own. During the Broadway run he would more often than not miss the mark of his entrance and roll into the audience. However, until Sunday he has been performing excellently during this run.

Both shows, matinee and evening, Spaulding decided to change his part a little. The first show he bounced off a set piece and rolled into the audience after his performance. After the show he was no where to be found, and we assumed that an audience member had taken him either as hostage or as a souvenir.

Not so, actually a kindly person turned him into the lost and found at the box office. He was quickly returned to his position for the next show. During the evening performance he hit a trunk on his entrance and never made it fully on stage.

At the end of the night I went out to dinner with Sandi and the crew to the closest restaurant. We left our car parked at the Colony, and by the time we returned the parking lot was totally empty. Just as I was pulling out of my parking place, across from the entrance to the theatre, I noticed something rolling to a stop in front of me. I questioned whether I was seeing things or not, but indeed it was a tennis ball.

I stopped the car and retrieved it. It was not new but it was not abused. Just used enough that the fuzz had worn off, exactly what I look for when casting a new Spaulding. It was, for my ventriloquial purposes, perfect. The audition was good and this new actor will become a "stand by" for the real Spaulding.

I'm not sure why there was a tennis ball rolling across my path at just that moment in the evening. There are no sporting good stores, tennis courts or any other retail establishments other than the theatre near and ours was the only car in the lot at that hour. I have no logical explanation for the ball being there. I also don't know why it was the same day Spaulding decided to change his part.

As in all "strange things" and like yesterday's story with the latch, taken as just a random event it is nothing of note. But when the timing of the random event happens at a precise moment it becomes note worthy.

For me, I am always looking for signs, some sort of physical reminder that I am on the right road. I don't know why I need concrete signals but I find them comforting and so they seem to manifest around me. Since I am having such a good time at the Colony I take things like the latch and the tennis ball as markers that I am on the right trail. And if they continue to happen I will most probably follow where their lead.

As you were,
Jay

Monday, December 07, 2009

More Ghost Stories
This is a picture of the traveling set for "Jay Johnson: The Two and Only" which is a simplified version of the set we had on Broadway. (Seen here in work lights. The lighting is a integral part of my show. The cases literally glow and cast beautiful shadows on cue). These cases have been part of the show since the original Atlantic Theatre run. They know their part very well by now.

At the Colony Theatre in Burbank we duplicated the set with different trunks and that is where my story begins. For three days of rehearsal and tech I walked on and around these trunks, as we prepared the show for its opening last week. Every theatre is different so there is always an adjustment to that particular space. The difference in the trunks was negligible in the total process. Everything was proceeding as it should, and then came the dress rehearsal the night before opening.

For those who have not seen the show, at one point I describe a time when my mentor Art Sieving opens up a carrying case revealing his wooden partner Harry. It is a poignant moment and I can easily take myself back to that time very clearly in my mind. Not only during this show but on other occasions in my career I have felt the unseen presence of my friend Art. This dress rehearsal was one of those times.

It was a particularly emotional rehearsal for me that evening. I was having trouble keeping my feelings in check to get through the script. My director Murphy mentioned there was a full moon and with no other reason for this night to be different, we accepted that fact as an explanation. I was sitting on a trunk stage right delivering Art's story. I said, "And he opened up that suitcase," and one of the latches on a case, stage left, sprang open. It was loud enough for the crew and the few people in the audience to hear it clearly.

I was stopped mid sentence, startled initially by the sound but then blind sided by the emotion. It was impossible for me to see this as merely a coincidence. The cases are old and the coupling of the latches are worn. It would not be so extraordinary that one would suddenly fail and spring open. However, I had been bounding all over the stage for a couple of days and the latch had not given way with my movement. It chose a time when there was no movement, I was sitting down on the other side of the stage and the exact moment I mentioned that Art opened his case, to spring open. The timing could not have been any more perfect.

I suppose you can see this incident in any way you choose, and call the phenomenon by any name you wish. To me it is just a reminder of life continuing to express itself and find a way to be known, individually. I have another week to tell the tale of Art and Harry at the Colony, I'm pretty sure they are going to be around watching.

As you were,
Jay

Sunday, December 06, 2009

One week left at the Colony. This could be one of the best combination of show and theatre there could be. The Colony is such and intimate space which compliments the connection of the story and story teller. Amazing place to do this show.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Athlete's believe that they are famous enough to command millions of dollars from being known, but not famous enough to get caught fooling around with cocktail waitresses.

Believe it Why Not?

Friday, December 04, 2009

Now?
We opened "Jay Johnson: The Two and Only" last night at the Colony Theatre, in Burbank. I love this theatre. The raked and curving seats create an intimate relationship between the audience and the performer. It just seems like you can reach out and touch every person in the crowd. That connection is an integral part of "The Two and Only". It could be one of the best marriages of theatre and show possible.

I remember the last time we were at the Colony we were on track to Broadway. Our run at the Helen Hayes had just been pushed back due to the extension of their current show "Bridge and Tunnel". Things were confused about when we would open on Broadway and how much longer we had to "stay out". I couldn't really enjoy the present moment in anticipation of the coming lights of Broadway.

This time is different. We have the Tony and the goal is not to "get somewhere" with the show, now the goal is just to do the show. There is a great feeling to being in that place, and space of the moment.

That feeling of being in the "Now" has been my theme motif lately. I had gotten so far off that track, either being burdened by what I thought were past injustices, or fearful of what events were to come. There is such great fresh air in finding the current moment, even for a few seconds.

Years ago I was a brief student of a new thought teacher named Alpha Grisso. What a great name, and great lady. I really didn't know what metaphysics was at the time or anything about what she was teaching. I met her because she "turned cards" in sort of a Gypsy fortune-telling act. She was good at it because she was such a clear thinker and could read people so well.

My first "reading" with her was interesting. She spread some cards on the table, and made a couple of stock reading remarks. Then she looked directly at me for a moment and said, "You think on a different level than most around you, yes." I was to shy to agree, but at the time I did think I was a little bit of a freak, and very different from my peers. She pushed the cards aside and said, "These cards are just a focal point for the distracted mind, let's just talk a few minutes." She told me things about my own feelings that I had never expressed. Before the session was up she invited me to a class she was teaching, free of charge. It was similar to a Unity, Science of Mind or even Religious Science class. I remember she said in one of the classes, "Watch your mental mumbling." It was an admonishment to be aware of the thoughts, negative or other wise, that loop continuously through your mind.

I am trying to be more acutely aware of that mumbling as I try to stay in the now. The mumbling will lead you into the past or future if you're not watchful. I'm having a great time doing the show but a negative mumble nags with the idea that each performance brings me closer to the closing. Why is it that the human mind tries so desperately to crash the party?

"The next message you need is always right where you are"- Ram Dass, author of "Be Here Now".

As you were,
Jay

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Shakespeare
One of Shakespeare's quotes most often repeated by existential thinkers is "There is nothing good nor bad but thinking makes it so." It leads me to a concept of Joel Goldsmith which is complicated and sometimes threatening to religious concepts that are chiseled in stone.

There is a danger in quoting a philosopher or trying to paraphrase his teaching in a sentence or two. If it was that easy the philosopher would NOT have have been compelled to write volumes on the subject. Goldsmith published almost a hundred books explaining his concepts. Ultimately it is impossible to express complicated feelings of spirituality in words of any kind. The highest feelings we have toward life exists outside the vibrational frequency of sound or the symbolic scrawl of language.

Goldsmith says that we miss the true meaning of the allegory of the Garden of Eden and the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" if we do not read it very carefully. It is assumed that Eden was a world of good and eating the apple from the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" was the introduction of evil into that world. If this were the case it would need only to be called "the tree of the knowledge of evil". But if words are specific it definitely states knowledge of good as well.

Eating the apple was a symbol of the introduction of duality into our thinking. It was the introduction of division when there had been only one before. Eden was one, the apple was the introduction of two different concepts, good and evil. It would be easier to think of it as the "tree of the knowledge of judgement." After symbolically eating the apple, Adam and Eve knew they were naked. They judged that covering certain parts of their body were good and not doing that was evil. The tree introduced the concept of good and evil but more importantly it introduced the idea of judgment to label.

The concept of good can be as dangerous as the concept of evil if it creates a division of the one. If we are good and "they" are evil then we are right in eliminating "them". The only way to avoid the pit falls of good and evil is to stop thinking in terms of duality. What is, is. What is not, is not, and any other label you add, good, evil, helpful, harmful, religious or sinful creates a duality. Duality is a threat to the One no matter what form it takes.

"There is nothing good nor bad but thinking makes it so." - Shakespeare. Sometimes theater can get it right. Support the Arts.... suggestion: "Jay Johnson: The Two and Only" opens tonight at the Colony Theatre, Burbank, CA.

As you were,
Jay

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Christmas Guide for
The Manic Depressive

It's December. There is no turning back now. The juggernaut of capitalism is rolling toward each of us and there is no escape to safety. You can only shore up your defenses and try to minimize the damage.

Christmas is a celebration of useless spending and "spoiled child" desires wrapped in an altruistic and religious package that succeeds in equating the amount of love you have with the dollars you spend. For a manic depressive bipolar like myself it is the perfect storm. Each year I think experience will help me avoid the highs and lows or the year before, but the Christmas capitalistic campaign is well organized and the propaganda is pervasive.

To be clear I am not talking about the religious aspects of Christmas. The birth of Jesus, the star of Bethlehem, the wise men, the shepards in the field, the biblical narrative is a great story. I love to hear it told over and over. But the state of our country and the status of our economy does not depend on the attendance of that yearly church event. And a three foot light up plastic baby Jesus on display in the front yard does not inspire me. Christianity and capitalism make very strange "manger fellows".

As a manic depressive child to be told that some guy in a red suit would give me anything I wanted, and bring it to my house on a specific December night was the highest of highs. There were weeks of anticipation for the toy of my dreams, leading to a miserable Christmas night trying to make myself sleep but too excited to do so. Knowing that Santa would only come when I was asleep, and not being able to sleep because Santa was coming is the definition of a manic depressive.

Of course with all the preparation and all the angst-measured excitement for the day, it is after all only one day, actually only a few hours of a day. It is over about as quickly as it begins and for me the actual ownership of the worlds greatest toy never matched up to my imagination and anticipation. The let down and the lack of sleep from the days before would send me on a resounding crash.

Needless to say the past affects my perspective of Christmas present. I hope for a different outcome but just before Thanksgiving the same songs, the same colors, the same characters, the same push to give (and get) the perfect gift, tend to create the same experience. Isn't the definition of insanity doing the same thing and expecting a different result? Well, there you go..

I love being with my family, but they are spread between, New York, Florida, Dallas, Los Angeles and Berlin. Unlike Santa it is impossible to be everywhere in one night.

And so it begins 23 days until Crashmas.
As you were,
Jay




Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Who's Talking
One of Echart Tolle's statements had a profound affect on me. Before he wrote the "Power of Now" he was severely depressed and contemplating suicide. He woke up one morning and said, "I just can't live with myself any more." At that moment it struck him, who is this self that he couldn't live with and what self was trying to get away?

It reminds me of the typical Warner Brothers cartoon character in the midst of an ethical or moral dilemma. On one shoulder would be a miniature version of the character in a white gown and halo. On the other would be a miniature version of himself with a red horned devil suit on. The devil would, of course, give all the reasons to do the wrong thing; while the angel would plead the opposite case.

The problem in real life is that those inner characters do not wear costumes and are not so easily identified as good or bad. In fact the voices you listen to are probably an equal mixture of both, or at best have no moral or ethical principles at all. This immediately brings up the question of "who is talking to us to begin with?" which was Tolle's epiphany.

Goldsmith states that all problems stem from the believe in two powers, good and evil. Rather than realizing life as it is, we feel compelled to label it either good or bad. We want to increase the good and minimize the bad. But we use human judgment to determine which is which. Why do we decide that a dandelion is a bad flower and the rose is a good flower? Why do we destroy the dandelion so the rose can live. Aren't they both equal in purpose and life?

I think this is what Echart Tolle is saying in different words. He was saying just look at life as an eternal now, without judgment. Stop listening to the angel and the devil, because both are incorrect. Life is not the black and white, good and evil, us and them, heaven or hell, dead or alive conflict that these inner voices would have us believe.

The struggle to stop listening is difficult for me. After all I make a living by giving physical voice to those inner struggles. But today I will try to see everything as it is, not as good or bad, not as right or wrong, not as me against them. I will try to see it just the way it is.

As you were,
Jay

Monday, November 30, 2009

It's Yours for the Seeing
I admire philosophers who explore the human condition with their writing or teaching and do NOT form a religion around it. L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, once stated that the way to great riches was to form a religion. Hubbard was already a rich science fiction writer but got very much richer when he founded the Church of Scientology. His book Dianetics is a required purchase for every student of Scientology, meaning that it will never go out of publication as long as Scientology is around. With no connection to the "religious" aspects of the book, it was a very good business and marketing decision. I wonder if the drive to become successful as a "religious business" precludes any altruistic values the philosophy had in the first place.

Certainly his is not the only philosophy to discover the "religion to riches" formula. You only have to walk around Vatican City for a short time to realize it is one of the richest and most opulent palaces the world has ever known. It stands to reason that the oldest Christian religion would be the wealthiest Christian religion.

Then there are thinkers like Thomas Troward and Joel Goldsmith. While Troward's work became one of the pillars of new thought religions, he never sanctioned any religion using his work. Goldsmith specifically forbid any organized religion from forming around his work. Yet the work still survives to inspire and direct even though there is no organization to market and cash in on it.

In regard to the gratitude list I mentioned last Thursday, there is a Thomas Troward quote that is posted on my wall, eye level to my monitor. It states,

"Having seen and felt the end, you have willed the means to the realization of the end." - Judge Thomas Troward.

That might just be the process of visualization stated in it's most concise form. Knowing where you are going creates the means, the provisions and support to the realization of that idea. If you have a negative idea, a negative result will naturally follow. "Oh I never have been able to do that very well..." creates the path of never being able to do it at all. You have to see and feel the end you want to experience to will the means to the realization of the end.

So what about the thousands of singers who see and feel the "end" idea that they are the next American Idol, and get cut the first day because they can't sing. There is no way to really understand why their "end" was the way it was without knowing what they were actually seeing and feeling.

I have known many artists representing all kinds of art. Some were rich and famous for their art, some were starving artists struggling to get along. The one thing that they had in common was the way they practiced their art. All of the truly gifted loved to make art, they were driven to make art. They saw and felt the thing they most wanted to express in whatever media they liked best. Some of the artist caught on with the public and became popular others did not. If the artist remained true to his/her art, it continued to flow. When the artist became obsessed with wealth and started "seeing and feeling" riches as the end... their art suffered.

The thing I have to wrestle with most is making sure that I am seeing and feeling the right end, free of some negative that will deliver me to an alternate unhappy end. Most of the time this involves letting go of my own ego. We will surely get the end that we see and feel most strongly, but that does not guarantee success or happiness. Human ego is not wise enough to know what will really make us happy or successful. Perhaps the end that we should strive to "see and feel" is "happiness and success", then no matter what means is realized to facilitate that end, we will have what we seek. If it is not the path or career choice the ego might choose... what does it matter?

Thank you Judge Troward and thinkers like yourself.
As you were,
Jay

Saturday, November 28, 2009

It is now possible to become famous on television by pulling stunts
that used to get you arrested or excommunicated. ie, Balloon Boy,
Party Crashers, etc. Andy Warhol was right...soon everyone will be famous
for 15 minutes. The problem is CNN will repeat the 15 minutes 1500 times a day
which will leave no time for any story that is actually important.
Believe it? Why Not?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Time Out
Monday we are starting rehearsals for the two week run at the Colony Theatre in Burbank. We will open Dec. 3rd. I have some of my art work in the Colony Gallery which was installed yesterday. It looks pretty good. I am always excited to see it hung. Sometimes a collective look at individual pieces gives you a whole new perspective on where your mind has been for a few months or years. Here is a picture of some of the stuff as it was being loaded up.

So with that in mind I will take some time off from this blog. Perhaps there will be some stories of this run of the show in a couple of days. But for now I will go back to my daily journal writing. I feel the need to work where I don't need a safety net. I can't seem to get my mind in gear, perhaps this will help.

More soon.

As you were,
Jay

Thursday, November 26, 2009

ThanksGiving
When I first came to Los Angeles, trying to find a career, a spiritually minded actor befriended Sandi and me. Sandi happened to be dancing in a stage production he was also in. Stage performers seem to bond quicker than most any other type of show biz. This actor was at the time staring in a second television show after wining several Emmy's for his first. To this day his name would be known, but that is insignificant to the story and would just get in the way.

I was a little down at the time, wondering how to summit this city and this business. He took me under his wing, not to open doors to agencies, but help me get my attitude ready. He encouraged me to make a list of everything I was grateful for, no matter how insignificant. He said if I couldn't come up with 50 things on the grateful list I wasn't trying. At the end of that list I was to write down five things that I would like to have happen in my life. No one but me would ever see the list... it was secret and personal.

The grateful list was completed and I wrote down ten things I wanted. These were things that were at the time were seemingly impossible to achieve, like starring in a network television series, to name only one. The idea was to read the entire list of things I was grateful for and things I wanted to happen every day.

I did that for weeks. Every day I read the "grateful list" and then the "wish list". I'm not sure when I stopped or why. Recently I found that list in a stack of forgotten papers in the chest beside my bed. I was amazed to find that those things that I was grateful for 34 years ago would still mostly apply today. What was even more surprising was the "wish list". All ten things had come to pass, decades ago. I wondered why I stopped and why I didn't keep adding to the wish list as those things moved to the grateful side. Although things have happened recently that I would not have even dreamed to wish for.

All this to say... gratitude comes first. Once you can feel the gratitude for what you have, you open yourself up for new things to come into your life. Then those things become a new object of gratitude. It is great to have a day called Thanksgiving. A day for giving Thanks. A day of gratitude.

So look around and be thankful for everything you see today. Nothing is too insignificant, nothing is too trivial to be grateful for. Gratitude is in some ways remembering a wish that has come true.

Happy Thanksgiving....

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Grasshopper
A Grasshopper walks into a bar.
He orders a drink. Bartender serves him, cause it is a friendly neighborhood bar.
He looks at the grasshopper, then trying to make conversation he says,
"You know we have a drink named after you."
"Really," says the Grasshopper as he take a sip...
"You have a drink named Murray?"


As you were,
Jay

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Duck Joke
Duck walks into a drug store. Says to the guy behind the counter,
"Got any Grapes?
Guy says, "No, this is a drug store."
Duck says, "You got any Grapes?"
"No, I told you we only sell drug related items here."
"You got any Grapes?"
"NO.. I told you already."
"You got any Grapes?"
"If you don't stop asking me about the Grapes I am going to nail your webbed feet to the floor."
The duck stops to think about this for a moment. He looks carefully at the guy and asks,
"Got any nails?"
"No," he says, "I told you we only have drug items."
Duck says, "No nails?"
"We don't sell nails....."
Duck thinks for a moment and says,
"Got any Grapes?"

As you were,
Jay

Monday, November 23, 2009

What's in a Name?
When I left London last year I left my name plate on the door. I wrote about it in a July blog last year. You can read about it by clicking here if you wish. That story links to another one from the Helen Hayes theatre talking about the history of that particular name plate. That link can be read by clicking here.

You don't have to read the other entries. Just know that the name plate has been with me for a long time and there have been some spooky situations associated with it over those years.

All of this to say that coming back from my my show at the Gettysburg Majestic Theatre last month the magic name plate was broken into three pieces. I'm not sure how it happened since nothing else in the shipment of props was damaged. I was able to glue it back together, and now it has a rather distinctive "Y" shaped mark on its face. I guess I could think of that as a battle scar given that it has been through so much in its history. However, I choose to think of it as the wrinkle of experience which I see much more in my own face of late.

In fact it may be some sort of Dorian Gray symbol of the Johnson times. I could easily write on the symbolism of a lingering career; an identity broken by travel and too much time on the road, scared by events and separated into pieces not connected to the whole. However, it is in reality just a piece of plastic with lettering on it and it does not represent the way I see myself or the job that I am doing. Although I have had it in my possession for a long time, time itself may be its only significant value.

I am not sure if I will continue to travel with it and put it on the doors of dressing rooms to come. Perhaps the "wrinkle" will make it more interesting than it was before. Maybe it is trying to tell me it wants to retire and stay home. Then again, it is just a piece of plastic with lettering on it.

The problem with being a ventriloquist is that giving voice and life to so many inanimate objects sometimes carries over into your off stage life.

As you were,
Jay

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Friday
November 22, 1963
12:39 pm
Dallas, Texas
46 years ago today....

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday 11/22/63
My family moved to Dallas in August of 1963. Three months later JFK was assassinated on Friday, November 22, 1963 in downtown Dallas. The city would never be the same, me neither. I was just old enough to be affected by the events. The Dallas news covered the assassination as a local news. For the first few hours stories coming out of Dallas were different than the version the Warren commission would later deify.

Dealey Plaza is only a block from WFAA, the Dallas ABC Television station. People were literally pulled from the street and put in front of a camera and their immediate eye witness testimony recorded, minutes after they witnessed the murder. It was as raw and instantaneous as an interview can be. There was no time to think of the story or remember incorrectly. Every person interviewed at the time stated that the shots came from the Grassy Knoll or the Triple over pass, in front of the Presidents car. They also testified to four shots not three, two happening so close together they almost sounded like a single shot. That factor alone would prove a conspiracy.

But what got me was the speed at which the Dallas police were able to solve the crime of the century. In less than two hours after the shots were fired, Lee Harvey Oswald was in custody. Fourteen minutes after the shots were fired the Dallas police broadcast Oswald's description as the killer. Martin Luther King's was murdered in much the same way by a "lone assassin" using a rifle fired from a building and it took the FBI more than two months to catch James Earl Ray. I would love to think the Dallas police were that good at their jobs back then, but it reeked of set up and conspiracy to me even then.

The Dallas police caught Oswald at the Texas Theatre. The ticket seller called the police because a man entered the theatre without paying. Although the President had just been shot and the crime scene was several miles away, 30 police officers were sent to apprehend the movie goer. At the theatre they accused Oswald of being the assassin. There was at that time nothing to connect the movie going vagrant as the presidential killer.

Oswald was only in custody for 48 hours before he was shot to death at the police building. He was denied his right to have a lawyer, even though he asked for one from the moment he got to the station. Although the police were telling the reporters he was the assassin, they did not have enough evidence to officially charge him with that crime.

That is probably why I got so hung up on seeking the truth of what happened. I'm still looking. I think I have read every major book on the Assassination and a few goofy ones. There are those who still believe in the single bullet theory and the lone assassin. I never know what to say to such a belief. There is more compelling evidence for the existence of Big Foot than there is to support either of those Warren Commission assertions. Even the House on Assassinations Committee, who did their own investigation into the Kennedy assassination in 1975, came to the conclusion that the Kennedy assassination was "probably" a conspiracy. But no one ever tried to find out more than that.

I didn't need the Nixon years to conveince me that the government was crooked. I knew it even then. By the way, the files that might actually shed some light on the whole event. They were sealed up for 75 years by Lyndon Johnson. That's thirty years from now. I doubt anyone will care by then, and Big Foot will probably be head of homeland security.

(The picture above of me holding the newspaper is a couple of decades old taken at Laughs Unlimited Comedy Club in Sacramento, CA. Even then I was obsessed.)
As you were,
Jay

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Writing as Performance Art
Sandi likes a particular brand of instant "designer coffee" but if there is none available she will accept regular brew. This morning, however, there was no coffee of any kind in the house, so I volunteered to run up to the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf to purchase us both a cup.

It has been a while since I was there in the morning. It is a different place in the morning, kind of scary. Very busy, frantic I would say, with most orders made to go as fuel for a commute somewhere in the city. Then there were the "regulars" who come to the Coffee Bean to be seen writing. Like the commuters, the morning cast of "look at me writers" is more intense. One of my favorites was there this morning. I have seen her before; one can't help but notice her. In fact, I question whether she is even writing; she is performing for the early crowd pretending to be unaware that she is attempting to be the center of attention.

She is in her mid 50's and sits at the bar wearing reading glasses and an Ivy League Cap turned backwards on her head. Her station is near the door and across from the register. She perches high on a stool in the eye line of every customer who orders and works feverishly over a black Dell lap top and today a stack of printed papers.

When I say feverishly I mean her pace is that of an editor who is late with the Sunday edition of the New York Times. She is amped on espresso looking, typing, turning, sipping and most grandly mouthing every word of her work as she reads. I was always told not to move my lips when I read silently and have turned that into a career. She, however, looks like a silent movie played at 78 RPM acting out each word with over the top facial expressions.

Occasionally she makes a quick look around the shop to see how many people are looking at her, not out of embarrassment but enjoyment. If she is not being looked at enough she gets more animated with her "reading". When she is being observed by enough people she will tap something out on the computer, still mouthing the words as she does. It is an odd site to say the least. I am drawn to it like a moth to the flame or tiger to the prey... trying to figure it out is fascinating to me.

Writing is not performance art. It is something you do in preparation of Art. Writing is like building a stage set and focusing the lights for the show. Writing is not the show itself. Libraries not coffee houses are perhaps the best place for this activity. I know that some of us don't have nice offices to write in, or our environment at home is not conducive to the calm needed to write, but to seek out an environment which is as hectic as an early morning coffee stop doesn't seem like good use of time.

I could be all wrong about the "backwards hat lady", but it seems to me that unless you are the catcher for a baseball team, wearing a cap backwards is a sure sign of demanding attention. Reading silently like you had turrets syndrome is another sign of attention demanding.

Heisenberg, the physicist, said that an experiment is changed to the degree that it is observed by an independent source. If what he says it true, this project the "backward hat lady" is writing is being changed beyond recognition by placing it in observational mode at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.

As you were,
Jay

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Two Farmers Meet in Town

"Times are tough" says one.
"That's the truth", says the other, "I am trying lots of new things to keep the farm from going under."
"Yeah? What are you doing?"
"I'm breeding three-legged chickens."
"Three legged chickens? What's that all about?"
"Well you know how everyone likes the drum stick."
"Yeah".
"Well, I get 50% more drumsticks out of my flock than regular chickens."
"Then you must be making a fortune now a days?"
"The problem is that extra leg makes the chickens faster."
"Why is that a problem?"
"We haven't been able catch the little suckers yet."

As you were,
Jay

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Before you go....
I realize that this blog has turned into a series of obituary articles of late. Memories of John Keneley, David Lloyd, Carl Ballantine, Charles R. Meeker, Jr. and Richard Paul have occupied some of my space and time in the last few months. Each in their own way had some affect on me, so it is only right to try and analyze the loss. But I want to dwell on "what I have" rather than "what I've lost".

It would take several posts a day for months to come talking about those people who influence me that are still around. In the episode of "Chuckles Bites the Dust" Georgette says a profoundly funny truth. "It's so sad. Funerals always come to late. While people are around us we don't pay much attention and take them for granted. Then when they're gone we dress in black and cry our eyes out. Why don't we think to do that when they're alive? "

It was to such an end that several years before his death, the Magic Castle held a wake for the still living Billy McComb. Billy was a Irish rogue of a magician and like Ballantine had a profound affect on a lot of comic magicians. His material became public domain in some cases. Magicians and comics did not know they were stealing from Billy because his material was repeated so often and never sourced.

Typical Billy McComb: Thank you ladies and gentlemen. Before I go I would like to ask you a question. You see, when I go home tonight, my little son Brendon will wake up as I enter the house. He will say, "Did you perform tonight, Daddy?" I will tell him what a wonderful crowd you were. He will say, "Did they like your magic, Daddy?" I will tell him you liked it very much and clapped very hard. He will look at me with those beautiful blue eyes and that wonderful smile with the missing tooth in the front and he will say, "Did the nice audience give you your usual standing ovation, Daddy." I ask you, what am I going to do... Lie to the boy?

This never failed to get the audience off its feet for a rousing standing ovation as he left the stage.

During his wake, Billy was on stage in an easy chair. All of his friends came together to give their eulogy/roast in the most irreverent way possible. I have rarely laughed harder than that evening. There were times we thought Billy would die laughing at his own mock funeral. That was not sufficient cause for people to soft pedal the rhetoric, but rather to amp it up. To be present at the moment the affable Billy McComb died laughing, particularly if it was your joke that did him in, would have been a beautiful thing.

For the remaining years of Billy's life, every time I saw him he never failed to laugh and mention the "Death Song" I did about him with my vulture puppet Nethernore. In some strange way, performing at his funeral brought us even closer together.

Georgette, what a great idea.

As you were,
Jay

Monday, November 16, 2009

"Who's been F****in' with the props?"

Carl Ballantine billed himself as the "World's Greatest Magician". Most knew him as a regular on the ABC-TV series McHale’s Navy from 1962 to 1966 as Torpedoman Lester Gruber, or some of the other comic acting parts he did. But what I remember most is his incredibly funny Magic act. Since I am a member of the Magic Castle I got to see him perform it several times over the years. I tried to see it every time he did it. It wasn't funny because of the jokes, it was his character and attitude, it was his incredible comedy acting ability that drove the act.

It is the funniest magic act I have ever seen. (with the exception of my friend Harry Anderson who idolized the Great Ballantine) It was a comedy tour de force that portrayed a magician trying to get through an act that seemed to be working against him. He would cut a rope in two and try to restore it to one piece. It wouldn't work but he kept trying and it became a running gag checking to see if it had healed itself throughout the act. Toward the end he would reach into his magic hat pull out the rope and it was back together except for a two inch gap in the middle. "Close enough" he would yell triumphantly.

"And now a rabbit out of the hat." He would proclaim. He reaches into the hat... no rabbit. "And now a rabbit out of the hat" he would again reach into the hat, but again no rabbit. Finally he puts his hand into the hat and reaches his entire arm through what is obviously a hole into the storage of the magic table below. No rabbit. Ballantine would turn to the boys back stage and with disgusted dismay say, "Who has been f****in' with the props?" It was his frustrated attitude that not only were the tricks against him but now there may be a backstage conspiracy as well.

I used to go on casting calls with his daughter Saratoga, Sarah. She told me she was named after the Saratoga race track where her Dad loved to hang out. Carl came to see my show at the Brentwood Theatre before we went to Broadway. He was very nice in his praise for the piece. Carl Ballantine inspired generations of magicians who could also do comedy.

Carl Ballantine died last Tuesday at 92. He will be missed by anyone who ever wanted to get a laugh on stage.

As you were,
Jay

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Friday, November 13, 2009

Remembering a Writer
David Lloyd has passed away. A friend of David's and colleague Ken Levine has written a wonderful memory of him in his blog. My friend Sinkler sent Ken's blog address to me. It is fitting that it get sent around and read. It is funny and touching. You can read it by clicking on Ken's name above.

I was a huge fan of David Lloyds work which included most of the great sitcoms of this generation. David Lloyd wrote The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, Taxi, Cheers, Frasier and Wings. And he is the father of screenwriter Christopher Lloyd.

There is no doubt that he will be remembered for writing one of the top ten funniest moments on television by anybody's list. The Mary Tyler Moore Show episode of "Chuckles Bites the Dust". It is perfectly written and perfectly acted. I found the final scene of that story on YouTube.

Just to set it up if you do not know or do not remember, Chuckles the Clown, the kids show entertainer on WJM, has died accidentally. He was leading a parade dressed in his Peter Peanut costume and a rogue elephant, as Murray puts it, " tried to shell him". For days leading up to the funeral everyone is laughing and making gallows jokes about the peanut clown being killed by the elephant. Mary is horrified that they would make fun of a man's death and tries to get them to stop. This scene is the memorial service for Chuckles. It is perhaps the most fitting funeral remembrance for the man who wrote it.


David Lloyd died last Tuesday at the age of 75.

As you were,
Jay

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Luncheon
Yesterday I attended a lunch meeting of about 40 guys representing all aspects of show biz. The group consisted of writers, actors, producers and musicians as well as some of the top show biz lawyers in town. We met at Cá Del Sole which is right next to Universal Studios. The location was picked not because of its proximity to the studio, but because it's relatively close to the Burbank Airport. Four of the guys we were meeting with flew in from San Francisco that morning and did not want to drive all the way over to the West side just to be sheik.

We were discussing participation in several shows through out the coming year. I am vague about the circumstance and the venue because it is difficult to explain. For the purposes of this blog it is enough to know that everyone is donating their services, so egos and big money deals do not cloud the fun. I have known most of these guys for several years and it is always a great time when we can get together. It doesn't happen more than a couple times a year because of every one's schedule. It's a very fast track at these meetings and the guy with the best and/or quickest line wins. No hostages, no kings X, every man for himself.

I don't know who won the adlib contest yesterday. I'm not sure if anyone is keeping score. The judgment can be hampered by wine flowing at celebratory levels but I know I hold a top five spot at least until the next meeting. The important thing when you are adlib hunting is stalking the moment. That's still an aspect of timing, but the moment is almost as important as the internal speed of the joke.

For me the moment came in a relatively formal period of the afternoon. One of the San Francisco inmates was talking about the schedule. Several of us needed to know show dates and times for our calendars. We were finding out that some of the productions had a firm date and creative team assigned, but some did not. The phase was, "When we get into March and April of 2010 the dates get a little 'squishy' ". Someone blurted out, "Squishy, is that a legal term?" Another person said, "Yeah, What's a squishy date?" I got there first and shouted, "Fifty bucks, same as downtown." Big laugh, slam dunk, high fives from the comic actors, victory lap around the restaurant.

So I will be allowed to attend the next meeting in hopes I can shake out some more comedy prey. But it won't be easy, the next time, like always, everyone will be hunting.
As you were,
Jay

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Putting It Out There
The C&B Continuum is preparing a reading of the first act of the new musical we have been working on for some months. I have mentioned this group before, but we now have a name. We are imposing on friends for a writer's reading to see if the voices track. However, as I prepare myself to have others hear words I have written, my stomach tightens a little. In my mind I flash back to a time when I was captive audience to a writer's work on an airplane. I am hoping it goes better for the friends involved in our up and coming reading.

As I wrote in my journal the guy sitting next to me on the plane says, "You must be a writer." I mumbled some phrase that was intended to say.... "The reason I am writing in my journal is to avoid talking to inquisitive seat mates." He didn't get it. He is a writer. Told me he is working on the "History of WWII." I said, "Very comprehensive subject... I wouldn't know where to start on a project like that." (read... leave me alone I am trying to write my own history, thank you.) He said, "Well this is how I started." And with those six words, I am sentenced to airplane hell.

He has a lap top computer with the entire text of his book, letters from soldiers, declassified reports of battles, navigational charts and SIX HUNDRED AND FORTY NINE scanned black and white photographs from WWII. From Detroit to Los Angeles I was captive audience to a guy with a lap top vacation slide show.

"And here is a shot of the island of Koregeidor and the USS Nicholas engaged in the first battle of the start of the south sea push." "Here is that same ship from the bridge....click.... from the stern.... click... from the ship next to the ship looking back...click... a shot of the Executive Officer during battle...click.. oh and a very rare photo of the Nicholas taken from the Japanese ship in the battle just as they were struck by a torpedo...click.... Japanese sailors being rescued from the water......"
Click...Click....Click...Some General once said,"War is hell" he should have added, "Even when retold". I am hoping the war will end soon.

The food comes. It doesn't matter he is able to continue the show and balance his tray at the same time. One of the bitter sweet joys of the larger fist class seat. At about slide Six hundred and twelve... a dialogue box appears on the computer screen that says "Low battery power... shut down immediately or plug in charger." If he had gone for the charger... I would have gone for my fork and poked out my own eyes. Thank goodness for limited battery life... it saved mine.

As you were,
Jay

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sleepless in Encino
If you don't know the TED talks, search them out on the web. These are 17 minute lectures given to an elite network of people who get together and celebrate creativity. It is an acronym for "Technology, Entertainment and Design". I also think it is the first name of the guy that started the organization, but not sure about that. Al Gore's lecture on global warming started as a 17 minute TED talk. They are free on line and you will get hooked. There is eventually some lecture for anyone's imagination.

One of the lectures that I have only heard on tape and not seen a video of is about "4 o'clock in the morning". A writer has researched the idea that in literature and popular culture, nothing good happens at 4 o'clock n the morning. If a writer is going to specify a time when bad things happen... it is 4 o'clock in the morning. Historically bad things happen at .... 4 o'clock in the morning. His lecture explores the reason for this in a very humorous way. Is it a bad time because it is just bad, or have we used it that way in literature until it has become the devils own time?

All I know is that I keep waking up a 4 0'clock in the morning like I had an alarm clock set. It has been happening for a few weeks, but goes back decades. For most of my life, if I wake up at night it is 4 to 4:30 in the morning. I have always believed that because I was born at 4:30 am my internal clock wants to reset at that time. It is not a very scientific belief, because 4:30 am California time would be 2:30 Texas time since that is the time zone of my birth. It also happens when I am traveling in other time zones, I don't wake up at my birth time but 4:30 local time.

That's too early to just get up and start the day, and since nothing good happens at 4 o'clock in the morning who wants to get up then anyway? I usually listen to my ipod so it will lull me back to sleep with music or some less than stimulating podcast. I am always amazed at how bright and obnoxious the screen of an ipod nano is in the pitch blackness of 4 o'clock in the morning. If I lived on a farm Roosters would crow thinking the screen was the morning sun.


The few things that I have written or drawn at that hour, once I am awaken, prove to me it is not a productive hour. It is 4:30 pm now, that means I have 12 hours till my eyes pop open. I think I better go to bed now.

As you were,
Jay


Monday, November 09, 2009

Shameless Promotion
Twenty-five Days before we open at the Colony Theatre. It is such a treat to be doing the show in town. I love that theatre and the fact that I can sleep in my own bed is s huge bonus. According to the stats most of the readers of this blog are not close enough to LA or Burbank to come to the show... but it is a small world. Tell your friends.

I am also taking the space in the attached Art Gallery at the Colony Theatre to display some of my paintings. That was a big hit last time we played that Theatre. Different stuff this time. One lady from the last exhibit looked at my stuff and said, "Obviously this is an artist who deals with depression." I don't know who can be more brutal, theatre critics or art critics.



As you were,
Jay

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Fungiphobia is the fear of eating poisonous mushrooms. Five out of one hundred people suffer from this phobia and many need
counseling or hospitalization to deal with the fear.



Out of the 263 kinds of poisonous mushrooms, one variety is only poisonous to the cells in the brain that control fear and phobia's. Therefore if ingested this mushroom will cure the paranoia and the phobia. Unfortunately the cure is rarely used since the Fungiphobic are too afraid to try.
Believe it? Why Not?

Friday, November 06, 2009

Over and Done
This country is fighting two wars, unemployment is at 10% the economy is in the toilet, and soldiers don't seem to be safe at home on their own Army base. And to top it off the Fort Hood shooter in yesterday's killings was a mental health doctor named Malik Nadal Hassan.

According to his cousin Maj. Hassan is a native born Muslim American, who enlisted in the Army because he loved the army and wanted to make a difference. However, after 9/11 he became the target of slander, bullying and hurtful remarks because of his Arabic name. He was born in America but was treated like an outsider and mistrusted, because of his name and religion.

Now I'm not sure if the ethnic bullying and slander is what drove him to commit a horrific act of multiple murder, maybe it was the fluoride in the water or perhaps Texas just drove him crazy. One thing for sure by the evening "news spin", Fox News was declaring his act a terrorist attack because, after all, he is a Muslim and you know how they are.

The Los Angeles Police has put around the clock patrols on the Islamic Center here in Southern California to protect Muslims from the death threats that have resulted from the Fort Hood tragedy.

So...in light of yesterday's tragedy and today's aftermath, what is wrong in exploiting a dead terrorist puppet with a Muslim name who's catch phrase is "I Kill you".... It's funny, right? According to the character's creator, "Muslims don't have a problem with that puppet". Well, there you go, it was probably Major Malik Nadal Hassan favorite character.

Selma Diamond once said in reference to an ethnic joke on the set of "Night Court", "Just because you can get a laugh with that joke... doesn't mean you should."
Over and Out,
Jay

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Sleepy and Grumpy
(Snow's Favorites)
Well it seems all you need to do to start a fight is mention the "ventriloquist" in yesterday's blog and I don't mean Edgar Bergen. People have some really strong feelings about him on both sides. It seems his popularity gets defended more than his talent but intensely none the less. So... I will refrain from broaching the subject or the person in this forum.

I couldn't sleep again last night. It wasn't the clowns this time. I don't know what it is. I'm not particularly concerned about it, just tired. However, long about 4:00 in the morning you can find some unusual television. I guess the world is full of night creatures that only come out after dark, why should television be any different.

Mostly it is "paid advertisement shows" at that hour. They are designed to look like talk shows or news shows with desks and couches, covering a single "story" with great detail. 90% of them involve health in some way. There are diets, hair restorers, things to make you bigger, pills to make you longer, younger, blonder... Apparently no one likes who they are at 4:00 in the morning and are looking for ways to change.

I got bored with all of that, CNN was on it's second repeat of Anderson Cooper so that was out.
Then I found Jerry Springer. Good old Jerry. Thanks to Jerry and his skills as an investigative journalist, I realized not only do people not like who they are at that time of morning, according to the Springer world, they hate everyone else as well. Who are these people that would come on television and admit to having an affair with a zoo animals? Is there enough money in the world for Jerry Springer to wake up in the morning and say to himself, "Today I am going to the studio again and talk to a man who has sex with his twin sisters in the back of a bass boat while his 700 pound wife catches the fish with her teeth."

Why in my day... television used to be more than just an exposé of trailer trash infidelities and patent medicine treatments. Not that long ago television just quit broadcasting after Johnny Carson was over. Early television execs knew that nothing good can be programed at 4:00 in the morning. Not now... video muzak... the never blinking eye...over dose on info. So my suggestion is, if you have insomnia the television won't help, even though every third commercial is for sleeping pills.
As you were,
Jay