Happy 2-month Anniversary. Are you thinking that it would probably be easier for me to update this blog during my allocated times as opposed to waiting for one day and posting 30 entries? You've got some nerve. It's a good thing the only people reading this are my creditors and Mubarak.
I haven't yet spoken of my Montana Barnes and Noble expedition. I believe that time has arrived.
Briefly, a few months back, I called Barnes and Noble bookstores and pitched conanorbust. The community relations managers in each of the three cities I had contacted obtained approval from their store and regional managers and confirmed the dates and times during which I would perform my powerpoint presentation and maybe even direct random shoppers/kids to the "sex for dummies" aisle. I was so happy, I even let Torio sleep in a hotel room that night instead of relegating him to the bathtub.
Then, I called Kate Schuster, the manager from the Barnes and Noble store in Chicago. She informed me that since I was not an author promoting a book that was sold in the store, I could not perform there. She also emailed the corporate office and told them of my plans. Thus, the next day, I received form letters from all of the managers of the stores I had already booked shows for -- I was denied entry.
I wrote a post about this a month ago and let it be. I moved on to more hilarious situations in other cities which were well documented and seen by almost 7 people. Then, I came up with an idea: If I wasn't allowed to perform in a Barnes and Noble because I wasn't an author, I would simply become one.
I went to bn.com and looked up books about powerpoint. I found a recently published book by Dr. Stephen Kosslyn that blended psychology principles with powerpoint presentations. I called up a Barnes and Noble in Montana and told them my name was Allen Piccirillo (pronounced Pichiero) and that I was the teaching assistant for Dr. Stephen Kosslyn. I let them know that Dr. Kosslyn was speaking at the University of Great Falls and he would like me (in his absence) to present a ppt presentation about powerpoint to people at the local barnes and noble book store.
The woman on the phone was receptive, even asking, "How many advance copies of the book should I order?"
"How many do you usually order?" I asked.
"About 150," she said.
"Better triple that number," I responded.
In the mean time, I called the University and spoke with Karen, the Dean of Psychology, and told her of Dr. Kosslyn's guest lecture at the nearby Barnes and Noble and would she mind passing the word along to the psychology students? No, she wouldn't mind. (I later learned that they offered extra credit to students who showed up and wrote a report about my presentation.)
In between writing and performing and driving, I purchased and read the book and began creating a ppt presentation utilizing Dr. Kosslyn's principles. It's immature, to be sure. I crafted one of the worst ppt presentations in history. I chose a dark red cross-stitched background filled with pictures of lumber. Then, I chose a barely visible font color and size and violated all of the rules of basic public speaking, presentation, and physics.
I talked about juxtaposition of images and threw pictures of cats onto the JFK assassination. No one laughed. I pointed out why placing a picture of Rosie O'Donnell with a note that read "Rosie Approved" onto a package of Chips Ahoy cookies was clever image juxtaposition because it conveys an important message: people like cookies but they don't like obesity. They took notes.
I did this for 20 minutes, churning through bits while students sat straight-faced, buried in their laptops, furiously copying my presentation. I had prepared handouts and had Pete pass them out to the students.
At one point, I was talking about Kosslyn's principle relating to sounds effects -- always use sounds that are compatible with your message.
"For example," I said, "if you're talking about hurricanes, use this."
(I clicked a button and it played the sound of blowing wind).
"Or," I continued," If you're talking about Justin Bieber, you can use this."
(I clicked a button and it played the sound of a toilet flushing).
One person laughed. I told them that it was a mistake -- I swear I had recorded the sound of one of his songs. I saw that someone had a tape recorder.
Near the end of the presentation, during a segment where I added dozens of cats to a photo of the Challenger explosion), Margaret, the store manager, approached and erupted in, as Charlie Sheen would put it, violent hatred:
"Excuse me, do you think these images are appropriate?" she asked.
I stared her down and said, "I think this should wait until the Q & A."
"I don't think that's appropriate," she persisted.
The students looked at her as if she were insane.
"Margaret, Q & As are always appropriate. They encourage learning."
"No! These images!" She was heated.
I let it hang there for 20 seconds, which feels longer than you might think.
"I understand your objection," I said. "These images are disturbing but they are in line with Dr. Kosslyn's principles. I fear that my poor public speaking skills have affected the doctor’s message, but I can assure you it's in keeping with the book."
I grabbed the book, turned to the section on image juxtaposition and read directly from it. The students began taking notes again.
"So as you can see," I said, "these images, chosen by Dr. Kosslyn, illustrate his point."
Silence. Margaret apologized. She slowly walked away.
After another 10 minutes, I conducted a Q & A session in which only ONE person pointed out flaws in the presentation like my point about using only 3 pieces of info per slide was actually the 8th point on my slide or that I had placed photos of ALF in random places throughout the slideshow.
I thanked everyone for coming, pushed sales of the book, and left to perform stand-up at another venue that night.
America, stop being so gullible. I cited ridiculous court cases that didn't exist and you wrote it down in your ipad. And Kate Schuster, from Barnes and Noble, you can't keep me down. Also, heads up: I had them send all 450 copies of the book to your store.
Hall Pass -- 1 out of 7 Golden Slacks
Synopsis (from imdb.com): A married man is granted the opportunity to have an affair by his wife. Joined in the fun by his best pal, things get a little out of control when both wives start engaging in extramarital activities as well.
Free Pants' Take: Like its sister movie, The Dilemma, this does not seem like a premise that lends itself to belly laughs. This sounds like a compromise that's struck between two damaged adults looking for an easy way out of their marriage. Plus, Owen Wilson! I've said it before: any movie made with Owen post-suicide attempt is really a gift from God. The movie will basically teach the men that they love and need their wives.
Unexpected Scene: Owen Wilson successfully commits suicide on camera.
I am Number Four -- 0 out of 7 Golden Slacks
Synopsis (from imdb.com): John is an extraordinary teen, masking his true identity and passing as a typical high school student to elude a deadly enemy seeking to destroy him. Three like him have already been killed ... he is Number Four.
Joe's Take: People (I'm looking at you, Stephen Hawking) always talk of the intelligence of aliens and yet it seems that whenever they attempt to hide out on our planet, they choose the form of an athletic and attractive teenager. That will draw unwanted attention. Instead, they should come down to earth as Michael Sabie (see picture).
I went to 7th grade with this kid and no one, not even the teachers (or God), acknowledged his existence. Except for the time I put earth worms down his shirt and pushed him down a slide -- then everyone thought he was hysterical (even God).
The alien falls in love with an Earth girl and that probably creates some conflict for their parents -- think Montagues and Capulets only with alien DNA -- while intense battle scenes take place in between bake sales and band marches. Think Drumline meets Men in Black.
Unexpected Scene: The alien takes a break from intergalactic warfare to study for the SATs.
Take Me Home Tonight -- -78 out of 7 Golden Slacks
Synopsis (from imdb.com): Follow an aimless college grad who pursues his dream girl at a wild Labor Day weekend party. He, his twin sister and their best friend struggle with their burgeoning adulthood over the course of the night.
Joe's Take: Movies and books always depict a romantic view of emotional disconnection and misspent youth -- people always end up "finding themselves" at a party in a great location like the Hamptons or atop the Statue of Liberty with a beautiful woman who somehow pieces together the fragmented parts of their iives. Where are the movies that depict people in sweat pants huddled in the corner of their parents basement drinking rum out of a Slushee cup while The Break-Up plays in perpetuity in the background? This is another Hollywood scribe's wish-fulfillment fantasy movie. The reality is that most people don't "find themselves" and if they do, they're probably too old or trapped to do anything about it.
Unexpected Scene: After turning down his dream girl, the main character leaves the party, buys a ticket to Hall Pass, and then commits suicide with Owen Wilson afterwards.
Blog post by Pete Jackson
I remember a few months ago when Joe and I were imagining the timeline for this trip. It was exciting to map out the locations we would hit, the amount of time we would be in each city and the fun things we would do. We even went so far as to make sure we had a full day of rest once a week so that we could sleep a little and maybe even have some time to enjoy ourselves in any given city. But again, we were imagining.
It may seem unfortunate that we’re on the first (and probably last) cross-country road trip we’ll ever take in our lives and we haven’t had time to really experience the places we’ve been. But this was a conscious decision. This trip was never about sightseeing or lollygagging. It was always about working our asses off for something we believed in.
But on a drive through Texas the other day we accidentally stumbled over a gap in time. I had to take a restroom break but there were no rest stops for miles, so we pulled onto a side road and stopped at an abandoned gas station that looked like it was at one point in time the only place to stop for gas in this part of the country. After we got back into the car, we missed the entrance to the freeway and had to drive on the side road for a few miles. Suddenly, we stopped.
We were in the middle of nowhere - nothing but an empty highway and a barren side road. There was silence. It was magnificent. We may have only been there for a half-hour, but it seemed an eternity. Time stopped, and so did we.
It’s moments like these that make this whole crazy endeavor feel right. We were able to get into the car and continue working feverishly, but this time with the hint of a smile on our faces. You might say, “Well, the best moments come along when you least expect them.” That’s probably true, but sometimes it’s nice to believe that the best moments come along because you really need them.
Joe and I threw a baseball around during a break in Texas
Oh good. Finally, people are using robots for their intended purpose: to terrify humans. According to the article, a Japansese company has created a robotic piggy bank that will "explode" if the owner deposits money infrequently.
"The battery-powered toy -- designed as a cartoon-style, ball-shaped black bomb with a skull and crossbones logo -- lights up, makes a noise, shakes violently and scatters coins if it is not topped up for a long time."
The guy on line ahead of me at Dunkin Donuts had the same reaction when the lady told him they were out of munchkins - maybe he's just imitating the Savings Bomb. For an additional $50, the robot will repeatedly whisper the phrase, "Your children won't be able to go to college," while you sleep.
"'Users must pick up and collect the scattered coins and reflect on their laziness,' the Japanese company said."
It's sort of amazing that the company has employed shame as its primary marketing tool; it must have spent years cataloguing those immutably sad conversations at the roller rink between me and my parents in which they covered their eyes and handed me pairs of pants. In America, we don't use shame - we sell products with catchy jingles, talking diapered babies, and fat husbands who can't seem to grasp the basic principles of financial planning, doorbell repair or gravity.
This makes me root for "The Savings Bomb" and some of its sister products listed below:
#1. Fridge Raider:
This fridge will dispose of its contents if it notices that you haven't eaten fruits or vegetables in one week. It will also invite your mother-in-law for a weekend visit if it recognizes more than one chinese takeout container. For an extra $50, the fridge will "dispose" of food by sending it directly to Kirstie Alley's house.
#2. Open House:
When placed in your crawl space, this device will send signals out to drifters and out-of-work musicians that your house is available for squatting if you don't regularly repair and clean it.
#3. Wonder Wall:
This will erect an actual brick wall around you. It is designed to mirror to the cold, emotional wall you've placed between you and your gay son.
The Savings Bomb costs $50 which begs the question: Is this purchase really part of a sound financial plan?
Pete’s Note to Andy Richter:
There is no way you’re going to remember this, but I’ve actually met you before. It was about a year ago in an elevator at the Roxbury medical building and it was right after I had taken my son to see his pediatrician. It’s funny, right when you were getting on the elevator, I remember telling my son that we had to go to the drug store to pick up his prescription for blarithromycin. You chimed in and said, “Ear infection, huh?”
My son was silent during that elevator ride. I don’t think he recognized you since he spends most of his time watching animated movies. But, after you and I talked for a bit and made it down to the parking garage he finally mustered up the courage to say “bye.”
Sometimes I wonder why that elevator ride didn’t happen after Joe and I had decided to take this trip. It would have at least made for better conversation. In my mind, I would have slipped you a business card, you would be overjoyed, and then I would call Joe and tell him the trip was off. We had done it. My wife would be so proud.
So Andy, on the off chance you’re reading this, the time has come for me to ask for help from everyone I’ve ever met. It’s the part of our trip where we have to pull out all the trick cards and you’re the only ace in the hole.
All the best,
It's me. I just wanted to say hi from the toilet. The picture above was taken in the hotel room in Santa Fe. In every hotel room across the globe, there is a mirror located across from or adjacent to the toilet. It allows you complete and total access to a view of yourself going to the bathroom. I happened upon this when I was using the facilities and looked up and noticed: hey! It's me. That image cannot be unseen. And yet, hotel chains around the globe insist upon this feature. In every city, I have seen mirrors on the backs of bathroom doors, mirrors on walls across from bathrooms, and mirrors on walls parallel to the toilets. I guess the next step is a mirror on the ceiling, or better yet, a floor mirror. In the time it takes engineers to build that mirror, this will have to suffice.
In non-bathroom related news, a lot of people say, "Joe, you're so talented, hilarious, and prolific, is there anything you don't show?"
Good question. For every hysterical video we've produced that has amassed over 7 views on youtube, there are countless ideas that I've saved until the time when I burn out creatively. Here are some examples of what you didn't see:
1. Interpreter: When President Hu visited Obama last month, I wrote a skit in which I was the interpreter for both the President and Hu. Using real clips from youtube, I would misinterpret and misrepresent each presidents' remarks until war broke out. Hilarious.
2. Reverend Joseph Episode # 14: In a strip club, I marry a man and the stripper who gives him a lapdance.
3. I read that the King of Jordan dismissed his entire parliament to stymie protests in the wake of the Egyptian revolution. I find this to be hilarious. The skit involved protesters clamoring for change and the King coming down from his palace and chanting slogans with protesters saying, YOU guys need to go!"
There are others but you'll have to be patient.
Dear Mr. Mubarak,
How have you been? We’ve read that you’re schedule has recently opened up. May I suggest a trip to Little Rock, AR? Although the people of Egypt failed to recognize your long and faithful service, we here in Arkansas promise to never revolt – something like that requires our energy to be diverted from eating at Chilis and mispronouncing words, favorite activities of ours. There are plenty of great things to do here. For example, why not check out our porta potty conveniently located next to our traffic light? History buff? Well, you’ll love our wide selection of Little Rock artifacts like Bill Clinton’s running shoes and saxophone.
Not a fan of looking at sneakers? That’s fine. Instead, take a tour of downtown Little Rock on our trolley that runs about as fast as evolution (if we believed in that sort of thing) -- it's so slow you’re sure to be robbed by locals at every stop. It’s all part of our Mugging Crawl.
We hope to see you soon, Mubarak. We’re keeping the porta potty open for you.
Little Rock, AR
p.s. Your people insist that time are changing. Luckily, in AR, time has stopped.
pictured above: trolley pictured above: porta potty and weird guy
I have sad news to report. Recently, I have been diagnosed with what can only be called a case of unironic Bieber Fever. No one is more upset about this than I am. I left Pete and Torio to see the movie with every intention of hating it. What's not to hate? Bieber is a 16 year-old kid who released a movie about never giving up. Since morale has been low on the road ever since Mubarek gave up power (watch Bieber, Mubarek), I thought I would watch the movie, pick up a few clues, and try them out on the Conan or Bust tour. But then something happened... I actually began to root for the kid.
People will tell you that one of the most embarrassing items to purchase in life is tampons or condoms. Allow me to set the record straight. There is nothing more embarrassing than purchasing one ticket to Justin Bieber's Never Say Never (in 3-D) at 10:40 PM on a Tuesday night. At least in a drug store, you could buy other products to fool the cashier. Here, unless I also purchased 12 tickets to Sanctum, there was no real possibility of fooling the cashier. Although I tried. I told her I was a movie critic. Then, I asked to borrow a pen. When she asked if I needed paper, I held up a napkin as if to say, "Nah, I'm all set."
I entered the theater -- a huge Imax stadium -- and skewered the previews mercilessly. Warning: there is an animated movie about the Easter bunny who defecates jelly beans (played for laughs) scheduled to arrive this April. I suggest you leave your first born behind, hop onto a jet ski and ride it until you run out of gas, and wait for the Rapture. When the lights went down, I was the only one present in the theater. I took out my pen and napkin and waited for my hatred to arrive.
Instead, I respected the kid, and I felt bad for him. They showed clips of the kid at 8 years-old teaching himself how to sing and play the guitar and drums, and he was great at it -- a true virtuoso. They also showed old footage of his playing guitar on street corners while people listened and tossed him a few bucks. He must have been 9 at the time. THEN, they showed a clip of him in present day -- wearing tight leather pants and singing stupid bubblegum music and I realized that he is just a kid surrounded by vultures who want to make millions from his talent. They introduced his spacey mom and his entourage comprising failed bouncers and wannabe record producers and you could tell they see the kid as a meal ticket.
Also, women should be outraged at this movie. The only clips of his fans showcase teenage girls screaming, crying, and begging to marry the kid. When asked why they like him, most respond with vagaries like, "his hair" or "his eyes" or "like totally just because!" Ladies, please stop this.
Point is, I like Bieber. So deal with it. I don't like his music but I respect the kid for his work ethic and his talent. Also, he did inspire one idea for the tour. On stage, his producers threw back-up dancers who perform karate on stage for no apparent reason. That's what my next stand-up show will feature -- Karate back-up dancers.
Part 1: Usual anger
Part 2: Watching Bieber (and karate performers) in Never Say Never
Part 3: Bieber Fever
Blog by Pete Jackson
Some people have been wondering how we’re continually updating material while we’re on the road driving hours a day, doing shows and shooting material for the film and viral videos. Well, even though we may be driving for 10 hours a day, the car is our moving office. As we’re driving Joe is writing new content, I’m cutting new material and we’re constantly uploading all sorts of goodies throughout the day. How is that possible, you ask? Well, Macintosh, of course.
It’s no secret that this whole endeavor is being done on a Mac. Joe’s powerpoint presentations were created and are projected from his Mac and all of the material you see on the website is processed, cut and finished on a Mac. Joe’s sister bought him one of those Verizon 4G cards so that we can access the Internet practically anywhere, but up until that point I was even tethering the internet through my iphone (just don’t tell AT&T).
So far the Macs have been good to us. They have been dropped a few times and get shoved into the back of the car every other day, but they still manage to keep working. It even worked wonders while we were writing the songs for the Soundtrack ad we posted the other day. Joe recorded the music in Garageband using a keyboard we brought and I sang right into the front of the laptop. Not bad for a crappy laptop microphone. Sure, this may sound like a pro-Mac ad, but it’s also no secret that we’re looking for corporate sponsorship. If we’re going to try, why not shoot for the stars, eh? It’s our thing.
I also have my eyes set on Radio Shack for corporate sponsorship. It took some time to convince our small group that Radio Shack was worthy. Apparently, no one goes to Radio Shack except for me. I just don’t get it - who doesn’t like DC converters and fuses? All of the equipment on the trip has components that can be easily acquired at the Shack, and their stores seem to be everywhere. But I won everyone over one day when Joe had a very important show and there were only two-prong outlets on the walls. With less than 30-minutes until show time, where does one go to get a 2-prong to 3-prong converter? That’s right…
So if you guys from Apple or Radio Shack are ready to work out a deal, you can contact us via email per our website. Our mobile office is open today from 6AM until 5PM, and then closed for a show.
I've mentioned this before but there must be something universal about our desire to die at the hands of self-aware robots. Despite the prevalence of Terminator and Short Circuit movies, we humans strive to create a learning computer that will eventually destroy us.
While you were busy sending electronic whales to each other on Facebook for Valentine's Day, Watson was initiating his takeover of Earth. What's Watson? It's a supercomputer that challenged two human competitors in a game of Jeopardy! and despite a few technical glitches, proved smarter than his human counterparts.
And how did humanity respond to this disturbing omen? According to cnn.com, the studio audience cheered and applauded our eventual robotic master. Alex Trebek had to gently remind the audience that the computer could not see or hear their applause; it could, however, laugh as it pulled out your spine and played it like a xylophone.
I love Watson. And I'd love to see how it would fare in other TV shows.
1. Deal or No Deal
Watson becomes frustrated with the premise -- it renders his critical thinking skills useless -- and shoots lasers at the Deal or No Deal models. Howie Mandel lives and comes up with a great sketch for a new version of Howie Do it in which Watson and Mandel remake the movie Twins. Special appearance by Stephen Hawking as the cool bully who tries to keep Watson down!
2. Grey's Anatomy
After failing to get the microchip he needs to survive, Watson breaks the bad news to his new girlfriend.
(Spoiler alert: Watson lied -- he doesn't need a new microchip; he just thinks he can do better than Sandra Oh.)
3. The Talk
Watson guest stars on the day-time chatfest and plans to impress the ladies with his infinite knowledge of quantum physics. After the gals ignore his dire warning about Earth's imminent demise so they can debate the most absorbent tampon, a dejected Watson explodes killing himself and the entire panel. World rejoices.
Special Valentine's Day Note: People call Valentine's Day a scam but they always make plans for it -- even if it's "no plans." Last year I was with my fiance, Pete was with his wife and child, and Torio was in space. This year, we're in a hotel on Conway, AK. After we arrived, we each took the rest of the night to sleep/settle in/call loved ones/watch hilarious episodes of Mike and Molly. It's mid-February. There's one month left. I have to figure out the next step... In the meantime, enjoy your holiday.