Note: Even though our intern Torio hasn't been prominently featured on the site or in the videos, he's an integral part of this trip. What follows is the first entry in a new blog series: A Moment with Torio. Look for it every Thursday. Feel free to send him emails at email@example.com. -- Joe
A lot of people have been asking me, “Torio, what’s it like to be working for the Conan or Bust Tour?” Well, in order to answer this question best, I must paint a mental image in your head. First, close your eyes. How long did it take before you realized you couldn’t keep reading with your eyes closed? Awesome. The truth is, working for the CoB Tour has been great. I could talk to you about the luxurious thirty-dollar hotels, the game of real life Tetris I get to play when trying to fit our luggage and equipment into the car, or my newfound interest in the art of walking around with wet socks. But those are my treats, and I don’t want to share. I barely even know you.
Instead, let’s discuss something much more interesting: Top Ramen. I’m kidding, that would be a terrible blog topic. Although, don’t think I’m not keeping my eye on ramen prices. It’s like the poor man's stock market. Thirty-six cents per package? No way. But, when I see nineteen cents for the shrimp flavor? BUY BUY BUY.
Pressing on, let’s discuss the trip. It can be a battle remembering to have fun between the long hours of filming and hating my hotel room. But when I get the chance to take a moment to think about what we’re actually doing, I know it’s something worthwhile. Driving home, from a show last night, Joe said something to the effect of in this moment we’re having some serious fun, even if we don’t realize it most of the time. And he’s right, getting the chance to hit the road and go for it, is pretty badass. Then he pointed to one of the ugliest skies I’ve ever seen and said, “Look at that sky, it’s beautiful.” And I thought to myself, oh no, am I soaking in wisdom from a drunk guy? This is like when dad taught me how to drive all over again.
I hope nothing I’ve said has promoted the idea of living in the present moment. Dwelling in the past or looking forward to the future is way better. Like when I look to the past I think fondly of an awesome burrito I had a few days ago. Or when I look to the future, I imagine how fantastically delicious the next burrito I have will be. But here I am, living in the moment, in my cold damp hotel room... burritoless.
One of the twisted joys of this trip is watching Pete and Torio grow accustomed to comedy on the road. A lot of people think comedy is non-stop fun when in reality it's a lot of blank stares and deep thought until that one brief, yet glorious moment when you've figured out how to end a skit, a joke, or a conversation with that woman you've just mugged. I derive pleasure from watching the guys' hearts sink as they watch hours of comedy at these clubs -- they are learning how tough and cruel and strange it can often be.
Bookers, for example, are hilarious. They're often a mix of deadbeat dad and 13-year old girl. As you may or may not know, about two weeks before we arrive somewhere, I call and set-up guest spots at clubs. Yesterday I received a call from Larry* from space*.
He said, "Is this funnyman Joe Piccirillo?" He sounded like Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog.
"Yes," I replied.
"I want you to come in for a guest spot on Wednesday,' he continued.
"Great. Of course. Who is this again?" I asked. I had made about 8 calls to clubs in the area and didn't have my spreadsheet of booker names in front of me.
Larry replied,"If you don't know who I am, then forget it!"
Then, he hung up. This actually happened. I called back the club and some woman intercepted the call. She told me that Larry can be hurt and offended easily and that I should try to "reconnect" with him later. I pictured him stretched out on the bed on his stomach with his feet in the air reading Cosmo.
After 2 more calls that day, I finally got him on the line. I told him that of course I knew who he was -- the problem was my phone connection.
"I run the top club in space* three years in a row!" he yelled.
"Larry*, I know. That's why I called you," I replied.
It was still a strained relatioship. Then, a few hours later I received four(4) calls from the guy. Apparently, our press agent had gotten us in the local paper. Suddenly, everything was fine.
"Funnyman Joe Piccirillo, you must come to my club!"
As soon as I arrived, he welcomed us and offered me a great selection of tap waters from behind the bar and toilet from which to choose.
Then, he introduced me to his kids.
"Hey! Kids! This guy's from Boston!" he yelled. The kids ingnored him and continued talking.
"You kids shutcha heads!"
He handed me a pen and asked me to sign my name on the big board behind the stage. I've never seen a room filled with signatures of comics I've never heard of... even accidentally. I would be joining the ranks of Roger Millford and Agnes Sigler. Finally.
So what did I write?
I printed my name. Printed it. The last time I printed my name was in 7th grade. Don't worry. I used quick thinking: I signed my name over the printed name so it looked like I was retarded. To make matters worse, I wrote just above my name: "I'm funny."
it's good when you have to convince a wall and the people looking at it that you're funny.
Luckily, I used it during my set. When a joke fell flat, I simply pointed at my quote to reassure the audience.
The show was successful and so we celebrated... by ordering Domino's pizza and watching reruns of the Golden Girls on Lifetime. Good times in Cleveland.
*booker and club names changed to protect my future bookings.
Okay, so we checked into our new motel in Cleveland on Monday evening. To be fair, we haven’t had a chance to really experience Cleveland yet and we’re planning on shooting some material for the website and film on Thursday and Friday - so Cleveland, please don’t take this entry personally. Our motel is not exactly in the best part of town even though those damned pictures on Priceline.com made our motel seem like a $30/night resort. Fool me once, Priceline… But it didn’t even take 24 hours to realize that we were potentially doomed here.
It was early Tuesday morning and I hadn’t slept well because I typically don’t sleep well my first night in a new location. My instinct (especially in this case) is to be like Jean Reno in The Professional and sleep sitting up in a chair with one eye open all night long. It wasn’t until early in the morning that I actually began to get some good sleep. That was when my world exploded.
You know those times when you are awoken from a deep sleep so abruptly that you don’t really know if you’re awake or not and all sense of logic is distorted? That was my state of being when the smoke detector in my room inexplicably went off on Tuesday morning. The alarm was so disturbing that I honestly believed an eagle of death was invading my room. I leapt to my feet wearing only my underwear and a pair of grandpa socks. I would think most rational people might clothe themselves, walk outside, and maybe go down to the lobby to discuss the problem with the motel attendant. Not me.
I ran to the smoke detector and ripped it off the wall to see if it was wired to alert the front desk. Alas, it was. Then, sheer panic. My eyes darted around the room because I realized we had set up large production lights the night before to shoot green screens for the documentary. Clearly these lights should not have been used in a motel with electrical sockets that I knew couldn’t handle them. The lights were unplugged now, sure, but in my mind, the firemen would never believe it - so my internal panic ensued.
Delirious, I made the decision that the best thing to do was to pick up the large lights on stands and find a place to HIDE them. Keep in mind, I truly believed that the entire emergency response force of Cleveland was going to show up at my door any minute. After that plan failed, I decided to eat the bullet. I had to go to the front desk and explain. I thought that my arrest was inevitable.
I put on the first pair of pants and shirt I could find and started ironing them down with my hands (because in my foggy mind, no one would trust a man with wrinkled clothes). I walked out of my door and discovered that the fire alarms on ALL of the walls of the motel were blinking and wailing. In that moment of horror, I thought the entire hotel would have to be evacuated (because of ME). I walked towards the lobby calmly, still trying to push the wrinkles out of my clothes with my hands, hoping that someone would sympathize.
When I got to the lobby, no one was there except for one man on his laptop in the dining area. With the shrill alarm louder in the lobby than anywhere else in the hotel, I looked at him and asked, “What’s happening?”
“Not sure,” he responded, “happens all the time, though.”
Then, Boom. The front door opened and the girl who should have been running the front desk runs in and yells, “What do I do?! No one ever told me what to do when this happens!”
Then suddenly, I felt relief. I was confused, but now fully awake.
“It happens all the time?” “What do I do?” Those words played over and over in my mind.
I didn’t do anything wrong – no fire trucks came, no people came out of their rooms - this is simply par for the course in this hotel.
So if anyone is looking to find a cheap way to have your life threatened for fun, let me know. I’ll be glad to give you the hotel info, but not until we get safely out of here…
We finally left the security blanket of the east coast and headed to Cleveland, OH. I hadn't told anyone before we left but I was looking forward to a room with many lamps but only one working light bulb and one of those "trick" heaters that work like those gag bottles of peanut brittle only instead of seeing leaping snakes when I turn on the heat, the heater instead releases carbon monoxide. I was happy to have all of the accommodations waiting for me upon arrival.
We played a punk bar last night and it was great. The crowd listened and laughed. Torio (our intern) opened the show and settled everyone down and got a lot of laughs from and gave a few jabs to the audience. My favorite part of the night, however, was shortly before I was about to start the show, the owner pulled me aside and said, "Well, maybe we should wait. Those guys are putting money into the juke box."
There are many times in life when one is humbled -- the beginnings of new love, the birth of a child -- but none moreso than realizing that one's time is worth less than $1.50.
The show was succuessful and the owner was cool so now on our self-appointed day of rest, I'm taking time to reflect on the past few weeks. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. These are worth about 15 each. Enjoy.
Toms River, NJ (pictured, weird sign; not pictured, double murders/cancer clusters) If anyone knows what this sign means, I will let you stay in my hotel room at the Cleveland Hojos for free.
I tried to pretend I was texting when in reality I was taking a picture of what will soon be emblazoned on the empty billboard I saw as we drove into Cleveland, OH. Even though I can't see his lovely date, I imagine she is a carbon copy of this guy in a wig.
This is a photo of my hotel room in Cleveland, OH. You can see the Torio and Pete laughing at the conditions (e.g. no phone, heat, sense of hope, etc). What you can't see are the random fire alarms that go off for hours without stirring fire fighters, managers, or even other hotel guests. For a long time I thought my depression had manifested itself as a piercing alarm. Then, I realized: we're just at the Hojos.
Website for the show I did last night. How do I know I've still got it? Top billing over Vegan Slop.
Check back, soon.
After having embarked on this cross-country journey, I get a lot of questions, namely "Why are you taking this trip?" or "Why did you punch my father in the ribs?" I think the answer to both questions can be answered in two and a half words: mid-season replacements.
Each year, networks commission hilarious/gripping pilots from producers in an effort to plug up the hole between Swiffer Jet commercials and make a ton of money. Here's a preview of what to expect. Now you understand why I've abandoned you.
Harry's Law (from nbc.com): After hot-shot attorney Harry (Kathy Bates) is fired, she soon finds her balance at new offices in an abandoned shoe store just as legal hotshot Adam Branch (Nate Corddry) accidentally hits her while driving. Inspired by Harry's no-nonsense understanding of the law, Adam decides to take leave of his shiny corporate firm to go and work with her. Harry, along with the help of Harry's shoe-savant assistant, Jenna (Brittany Snow), are now ready for whatever walks in through the doors of their unique establishment - Harriet's Law and Fine Shoes.
Joe's Take: Memory is a tricky thing. I can't remember my first kiss or my first day of school, but I remember the first time I was hit in the groin. I was 8, and Gerald Walsh hit a line drive that nailed me right in the balls and threw me onto my back. I remember the sound of the wind whooshing through the trees at Bay Lea park as I gazed upon the stars wondering how far the light had traveled to reach me, and I remember thinking that nothing could ever be as painful. Then, 24 years later Harry's Law came out and made that experience into a fond memory.
Here are some examples of plots for upcoming episodes:
1. Episode # 5
Harry calls foul when a high school placekicker enters the shop to have his cleats cleaned. After he realizes the store is really a law firm, he begs Harry to defend him from murder charges stemming from the death of the local high school referee who was rumored to have been accepting bribes. Plus, Harry learns how to re-sole a shoe!
2.Episode # 11
In this Halloween-themed episode, Harry and her employees transform the shop into an 1880's version of itself replete with spittoons and a drifter dressed up as a blacksmith. When a sudden stranger appears looking for his misplaced cowboy boots, secrets are revealed about Harry's lactose intolerance and the history of shoemaking from 1880's until present day. Was the stranger a man in a costume or really a man from another time? It doesn't matter because Harry contacts her friends at immigration and begins deportation hearings. Yahoo!
3. Episode # 16
Harry and the gang slash prices on all of their shoes! (episode sponsored entirely by Payless Shoes)
4. Episode # 22
Trouble abounds as the district attorney's office moves in to an abandoned Hot Topic located across from the shoe store. Will Harry be able to try all of her cases and still have the district attorney's shoes polished by the end of the week? Find out on this season finale cliffhanger of Harry's Law.
The Cape (from NBC.com): An honest cop is forced into hiding, leaving behind his wife Dana and son, Trip. Fueled by a desire to reunite with his family and to battle the criminal forces that have overtaken Palm City, Vince Faraday becomes "The Cape" - his son's favorite comic book superhero - and takes the law into his own hands.
Joe's Take: I would like to have been present during the brainstorming sessions in which Vince decided to don a cape and fight crime. Is this really the best solution to his problems? I can think of a dozen better solutions. For example, why not check out Harry's shoe shop, pick up some crocs, and get some free legal advice. Her no-nonsense approach to law should come in handy.
Biggest Loser: Couples Edition: This will be the show's fourth couples edition, as well as the introduction to a new shirt color and a man who is 507 pounds.
Joe's Take: Insert your own Kathy Bates joke here. I'd do it myself but I'm too busy watching Harry's Law.
Blog Post by Pete Jackson
For those of you who don’t know, Monday is the day that we officially leave the east coast and go inland toward middle America. The best part of having spent time on the east coast is that Joe and I both know people here. We’ve occasionally been able to spend time with family, eat home-cooked meals, sleep in nice beds and shower without having Hitchcockian fears. On Monday that all ends and motel-central begins.
One major concern is that we’re about to lose the occasional home-cooked meal. Some of you may laugh, but it’s my opinion that with a good home-cooked meal comes a heightened sense of security, familiarity and sanity. It’s something that many of us take for granted and I’ll be the first to admit it. Inevitably, we’ll leave Joe’s sister’s house on Monday, end up at a 7-Eleven for dinner and we’ll each place an order for a processed turkey sandwich with a side of isolation.
One of the ways that we’re learning to deal with this type of change on the road is to come up with contests to boost morale. Currently, the hottest contest in town is “the flash drive throwing contest.” There is a single flash drive that transfers data between our 3 computers and since we’re continually pushing data we throw a flash drive back and forth (sometimes great distances). As you’ve probably guessed, the whole point is not to drop the flash drive. Torio will be happy for you to know that I dropped it first (but it was an inside throw and I don’t use 2 hands like a wussinator).
“Exciting,” you say? “How can you get in on one of those contests,” you ask? Don’t worry, we’ll figure something out. Maybe we’ll do a “best dinner contest” where you can submit your home-cooked meals to us via mail while we’re on the road and we’ll pick the best one at the end of the trip. We’ll even create an authentic, one-of-a-kind, COB Collector’s Pack for the winner. Prize info below…
People who are successful at one venture often believe they can be successful at all ventures -- think Michael Jordan's baseball career or Law & Order actor Ice T's rap career. There is something universal about our desire to see these successful people fail. In that vein, I've provided a never-before-seen list of people who have failed at ventures outside of their wheelhouse. Enjoy the Schadenfreude.
Music and blog by Pete Jackson
I’ve always been a big fan of music that is written for the movies. There are some film scores that have been in my collection for years and have always been a great source of inspiration. Growing up, while all my friends had Guns n’ Roses and Bon Jovi albums, I was collecting the film scores of John Williams, Thomas Newman, James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer. I know, I know, what a nerd-bird, right? Of course. I’ll accept nerd-bird status for this one. Who else do you know that has a thousand-plus CD film score library and who blares orchestral music day and night in their own household? Just ask my wife…
I was such a film score buff growing up that when I was in college I made a rash decision to minor in music, not ever having seriously played an instrument before (and ignoring my parents’ (smart) advice to minor in business as a logical backup in case my foray into entertainment did not work out). But I was glad I did and I aced all my music classes primarily because I was passionate about something fairly unique (even for those crusty, old professors who had spent their whole life studying classical music). For example, any time I had to write a paper for a music class, I would always figure out a way to relate everything to film music. All of the professors must have thought it was a nice change of pace because I always got A’s on the papers while everyone else who was actually planning a career in music did poorly.
As adamant as I was about music during college, I lost the drive to actually learn how to properly compose music over the years. Life tended to get in the way. But every once in a while an emotion would expand into something larger, so much so that I got a small keyboard to attach to my Mac for those times when the only way to truly express something was through music.
It was always a dream of mine to one day be able to write some music that would be used in a feature film. Now, I find myself in the unique position of being able to write music for the film that Joe and I are currently shooting. I don’t think I have the technical know-how to be able to do it all myself, but I do have some thematic material in the works. Some of you may have already heard it at the end of our promo videos. I wrote the Conan Or Bust theme song one day after Joe and I had a long conversation about the project. More recently, Joe and I had a great time collaborating on a jingle that you’ll hopefully hear in an upcoming video. In case you can’t tell, we both get a thrill out of doing things that reach outside of the realm of what we typically do on a daily basis. Writing music is one of those things.
Here’s another introspective cue I wrote that is inspired by the film. Let’s call it “What you think of when you’re driving across the country in the middle of the night.” - Pete Jackson
We're 17 days into the trip and I've already received a stream of criticism. According to Conan or Bust followers (comprising creditors and telemarketers) I am emotionally unavailable, inscrutable, and downright cold. Apparently, people want to know about the real me and my take on the trip. Fine.
Well, let me dispel a few myths for you upfront.
Myth # 1: "Must be nice! Leaving everything to hang out in differnt cities drinking, hitting on girls, and telling jokes."
Fact: Let me paint a picture: right now I’m sleeping on couch cushions in the middle of a kitchen floor. Many things occur to a person when he finds himself at the age of 32 waking up in the middle of the night clinging to the oven drawer that holds pots and pans. Those things include but are not limited to the following: How did I end up here? I wonder who will accidentally step on my face first? At what point will the dog go to the bathroom on me?
Luckily, I don’t have time to worry about such trivial matters as my mind is focused solely on the couch cushions that continually separate about every 30 seconds creating a sort of trap door for my stomach.
Myth # 2: "You guys are having so much fun entertaining me, I don't need to be a FB fan of the site."
Fact: If you're not a fan of the site, I can't spam you with information for you to instantly delete or ask to allow me to crash on your kitchen floor. Remember when I signed up for your boring fb groups or went to your dad's funeral? It's payback time.
Myth # 3: "You must meet all sorts of interesting characters on the road!"
Fact: Nope. Except for this guy. He's a dire warning for us all. This is the face of Bristol, PA. I put it on a T-Shirt and tried to sell it at the Bristol show. I sold them all.
Myth # 4: "Why do you always have skits where a minority gets shafted? Why are you an awful person?!"
Fact: Stop projecting. I am king of the minorities. After I write the sketches, we post ads on craigslist for actors. The only people who show up happen to be minorities. And we all have a great time. Or at least that's what I force them to say.
Breaking news update: It was a contractor performing work on the house that stepped on my face. He later apologized, which was nice, but to be fair I'm not sure what etiquette dictates when it comes to finding someone sleeping on a kitchen floor, who happens to be a houseguest and not a vagrant. I've already sent in a query to Martha Stewart Living. I'll keep you updated.
Mac and Diabetes by Joe Piccirillo
In an interview with Piers Morgan, Oprah cites the box office failure of Beloved as the catalyst for her headfirst dive into a pile of Mac and cheese. In a related story, Kraft Mac and cheese cites Oprah as the catalyst for their huge 3rd quarter profits.
According to the talk show host: "When I heard I was beaten by Bride of Chucky, I told my chef to make 30 pounds of Mac and cheese."
This development has led me to really, really like Bride of Chucky. In addition, it sparked my curiosity. Surely, Oprah can't be the only high-powered figure to engage in binge-eating as a coping mechanism. I did some research and found the secrets of other public figures. Take a look.
Public Figure: Hitler
Food of Choice: Whipped Cream
Catalyst for Binge: lost Battle of the Bulge
Quote: "I lost the battle on the field and in my slacks."
Public Figure: Napoleon Bonaparte
Food of Choice: Lasagna
Catalyst for Binge: Lost at Waterloo
Quote: "A picture is worth a thousand words. This picture says a thousand yums!"
Public Figure: God
Food of Choice : Adam's ribs
Catalyst for Binge: stress-eating for upcoming test of Adam and Eve.
Quote: "Adam's ribs are great for creating Eve and taste delicious with barbecue sauce!"
Public Figure: Rosie O'Donnell
Food of Choice: all of the above
Catalyst for Binge: Tuesday
Quote: "More please."