Thank You Barry Crimmins

Barry announced a few weeks back that he had cancer. The son of a bitch was struck by lighting while on acid, cancer should be no problem. All this week though, I kept telling myself, "Nick, you should email Crimmins and thank him." For the past week he was on my mind. I'd better email him and then last night, a friend sent me a screen shot of a tweet his wife tweeted from his account saying Barry passed away. My heart sank. I waited too goddamn long.

Even if he didn't get a chance to read it, I should've sent it anyway. My thoughts are with his family and friends and even though I waited and it's too late to thank him, I'll thank everyone I can now. To everyone that I've met on this journey thru stand-up comedy - Thank you Dave Pickett, Barry Roberts, thank you Frandu, thank you Stefan Davis, thank you Nate Bjork, thank you David Z. Leon. thank you Ryan Casey, Thank you Ian John, Thank you Chris Waelti, thank you Rojo Perez, thank you Paul Hooper, thank you Josh Gondelman, thank you Nate Craig, thank you Andy Sandford, thank you Joe Zimmerman, thank you Nick Shaheen, thank you Rory Scovel, thank you Andy Haynes, thank you John Conroy, thank you Kevin Bozeman, thank you Mitch Burrows, thank you Kevin Shea, ya FUCK! Thank you Andrew Wegleitner, thank you Dave Waite, thank you Steve Gillespie, thank you Mary Mack, Thank you Tim Harmston, Thank you Tom Clark, Thank you Jon Huck, thank you Myles Anderson, thank you Kyle Kinane, thank you Dave Attell, thank you Marc Maron, thank you Chad Daniels, Thank you Marcos Lara, thank you Mike Liebowitz, thank you Anthony Siraguse, thank you Stacey Kulow, thank you Jake Snell, thank you Tyler Menz, thank you Sammy Arechar, thank you Mr. JJ, thank you Steve Brees, thank you Matt Donaher, thank you Alex Falcone, thank you Justin Lawson, thank you Anthony Robinson, thank you Bryan Morris, thank you Peter Grey, thank you Taylor Clark, thank you Mike Stanley, Thank you Antione McNeil, Thank you Nick Lynch. I know there are dozens more that I can't recall at this time but thank all of you all the same and lastly, thank you Bobcat Goldthwait for telling Barry Crimmins' story.

Thank you Barry. For your time, your advice, and your generosity. Thank you. Rest easy.


A Legend Stops By

On October 8th of 2015 I started a small weekly comedy showcase (Bring Your Own Therapy) in Bright Red Studios on N. Ingersoll here in Madison. I did it for stage time. I wanted a weekly space that I could get up and do 10-15 minutes before putting up the rest of the local comics that stop by. At no point did I ever think that any sort of popular comedian let alone a comedy legend would stop by and do some time. But on March 10th, just five months after the first show, there he was, Barry Crimmins, putting on a clinic.

He was in town visiting and was looking for some stage time. We had talked previously about putting on a larger show at a larger venue but couldn't line up any dates. He called up and I said I have a small weekly show. He asked how much time he could do. I told him he can do as much time as he wants. He's Barry Crimmins for fuck's sake.
Barry asked if he was taking any stage time from any other comics. I said he didn't have to worry about that. The locals needed to see Barry.

Crimmins is coming to Bring Your Own Therapy. Some slight panic hit seeing as how I had no key to  Bright Red Studios as well as no microphone and I definitely needed more chairs. Frandu, my fill-in host had the key and equipment at his house and then fucked off to New York. Fortunately my brother works for a production company hooked a brother up with an XLR, mic, and chairs.

That afternoon I take all the gear down to Bright Red Studios to clean and set up for the show. I set the room up three different ways before deciding it was best the first way I had it. About a half hour before doors, I met my brother and his girlfriend at the bar around the corner from Bright Red. I finished my drink quickly. I wanted to get back to the studio just in case Crimmins showed up early. I didn't want to keep him waiting.

I turned the corner onto Ingersoll and immediately saw a vehicle I didn't recognize. Hopefully that's not him sitting and waiting. I got to the door of BRS and opened it when I heard the car door open and turned around, of course, it was Crimmins waiting on my dumbass.

Barry came in with his lady friend. We shook hands and gave hugs. Barry immediately started scoping the space out like an anxious dog checking out a new house it has never been to or a K9 unit searching for contraband.

"We got any beer?" Barry asked. During our conversation on the phone I asked if he had a beer preference. He said we should worry about that later. Well now it is later, 9:30pm to be exact. I brought a 6-pack of Stella. Barry wanted some Dos Equis or Fat Tire. Madison stops selling beer after 9pm. I said I know a place. I hop in the car leaving Barry watching the door and head to Vic Pierce, the only place in Madison you can get beer past 9. I buy both Dos Equis and Fat Tire just to cover bases.

I get back to BRS. People have started showing up. Mostly local comics with a few civilians who had heard Barry was going to be in town. I introduce a few people to Barry that wanted to meet him. I give everyone the five minute warning that the show is going to begin. Barry asks how much time he can do. I say, "I'll light ya at 30, just to let you know where you're at. Do how ever much time you want."

The show starts. I go up, bitch about Florida. I introduce the local showcase, Steve, who does his time. Then Barry is introduced and the fun started. Barry goes up and takes charge of the room and doesn't even use the microphone. The microphone that I slightly panicked about and Barry used it once in his fifty minute set. It was beautiful. I was standing beside myself in the back of the room watching Crimmins pace back and forth speaking his gospel.

He wrapped up his set with some very inspiring and compassionate prose on the predicament, we as humans find ourselves in today. Barry thanks the crowd and receives a standing ovation from all 50 or so people cramped into this tiny art studio.

We take a ten minute break before starting the mic and Barry shakes hands and takes pictures with everyone that asks outside. Before he leaves I thank Barry for coming down and hand him $150. It was all I could afford. It was a thousand dollar performance, easily. Barry takes the cash and thumbs through it and hands me back sixty. "Thanks for putting me up Nick, I'll leave the beer for the kids." Barry says before hopping in his car and headed back to Milwaukee.

The next morning Barry called me and thanked me again for putting him up. I told him he blew a lot of young minds for the better. We talked about trying to set up another larger show again. I had the venue and date (June 2nd, Brink Lounge) but Barry is recording his stand-up special on that day. A special produced by Louis CK. That's something to look forward to.

Two weeks later, a young comic that went up for the very first time at BRS after Barry's set came in and thanked me. I said "you're welcome" though I had no idea what she was talking about. She said she came to the show with Barry and honestly had no idea who he was. Then she went and watched his documentary Call Me Lucky which had a profound impact on her. I told her no thanks was needed. But that's what's cool about the stand-up business. Sometimes, mostly in New York or LA, rarely Madison, Wisconsin, but sometimes. A legend stops by.


No Idea Who I Was Talking To

         In my six measly years of doing stand-up comedy, I've had the opportunity to meet and work with incredibly talented people, some that are "legends" and others that will probably be considered legends later on down the road. I don't get startstruck often, if ever. I don't ever take opportunities for granted but I tend to keep myself grounded. I started stand-up when I was 30, which some say is late, so I constantly feel I have this catching up to do so I don't have the energy to be starstruck. They're just people and it's just business.
         It was mid April of 2014. I was mc'ing for the umpteenth time at Comedy On State in Madison. Arguably the best crowds in the country. Bobcat Goldthwait was headlining, a very funny guy who I'm sure you'll hear of soon, Mike Lebowitz, was featuring. And while I don't take any gig for granted, this particular weekend for some reason, what I did take for granted was just how influential Bobcat Goldthwait has been and still is, in the comedy world.
         I get done with my set on the Thursday show, introduce Mike, and walk out to the bar and meet Bobcat. He tells me good set, I thank him but then it's straight to the business. I ask him what he wants for his intro and replies with, "Just my name." It's how he said it which I found endearing. Like it doesn't matter, we're just doing the thing. But it wasn't until halfway through Bobcat's set in the Friday late show that I started thinking of the things Bobcat has been in and I admitted to Lebowitz that I really took for granted just how huge and influential Goldthwait was in the 80's and now how he is still being an influence.
        The rest of the shows were fantastic. Hanging out with Bobcat out on the fire escape between shows listening to Robin Williams stories while Bobcat smoked a cigar. The crowds were great. Goldthwait crowds are my people.
        While hanging out in the green room before the last show of the weekend, I ask Bobcat what projects he's working on or got coming up next. He mentions a Bigfoot movie he's starting after he finishes this documentary Call Me Lucky on a friend of his, Barry Crimmins.
        I had never heard of Barry and Bobcat fills me in on Crimmins and his story and how Barry wants to take down the Catholic church and overthrow the government etc.. Sounds like a hip guy to me. I look him up on Twitter and start following him. His tweets requesting the pope excommunicate him I found hilarious. Crimmins eventually follows me back, sees that I produce my own show in Madison. We start messaging and he gives me his phone number, says he wants to talk about possibly doing a show in Madison.
        I call him up thinking this is going to be about a five minute conversation about possible show dates and promotion etc.. Nope. We end up talking for nearly five hours. We talk about everything; comedy, politics, religion, social media, my mayoral campaign, all of his tireless activism. He asks me about myself, where I come from. He asks what I like to write about. What I plan on doing in show business. Do I really want to be in show business? Does it make a difference? Can we make a difference? Can you make a difference? How do we make a difference?
       I had never had anyone ask these kinds of questions. The whole conversation was like one of those late night conversations you have with your best friend sitting on the porch drinking and laughing. Or having a meeting with a professor of life who has tenure and will say anything he damn well pleases simply because it's the truth. It was refreshing. It was familiar. It was easy to talk and even easier to listen.
      Coming up on nearly the fifth hour of discussion, we start winding up the conversation. Barry says he's looking at some dates when this documentary comes out then as we're saying the goodbye's Barry says, "Nick, you seem like a good guy with a good heart, if there is anything in this business that I can help you with, do not hesitate to ask." Knowing he is a (if, not, THE) Boston guy, I ask if he can recommend any places for stage time while I'm there in a few weeks. Without hesitation, Barry says "Yeah, I know the guy that runs the Comedy Studio. I'll send him an email, get you on. Let me know what dates you'll be in Boston."
     I thank him, we hang up. My girlfriend comes home, who is from Boston. I tell her about the five hour conversation with Barry and that I'll be doing a set at The Comedy Studio. My girlfriend (who is in comedy and the Boston area as well) says it's actually fairly difficult to get into the Comedy Studio. I said, "Not if you know Barry Crimmins apparently." Barry emails me about 20 minutes after we hang up wanting to know the dates because he's already emailing the guy. He didn't put it on a To-Do list. He jumped right on it which he didn't have to do but he took the time, which in my experience in this business is rare.
     We got to Boston, I report to the Comedy Studio. I meet the emcee, Rick.  I'm 8th on the list to go up. As I'm about to go on, Rick comes over and says, "Tony V. is stopping by so I'm going to bump you back a spot." Tony V. goes up and absolutely melts faces. It's like he's not even trying. It's effortless and something happens to me that doesn't happen to me before performing; I get nervous. I have to follow this guy.
     I'm introduced. My first joke hits okay. Second one hits a little better. Fuck these people! Fourth joke is stronger. These people are cool. There's peppered laughter but I look over to the right and Tony V. is sitting on a stool cracking up and to me that was better than going up there and blowing the roof off the place. In retrospect, he could've been laughing at me. Fuck those people!
Fast forward to present day:

      The documentary on Barry Crimmins (Call Me Lucky) just became available on iTunes today and I've watched it at four in the morning. I'm sitting there seeing Bobcat and Tony V., Mark Maron, and Lenny Clark  among many others in The Comedy Studio, talking about Barry and his life and his effects on their lives. While watching this movie and seeing what Barry's been through and what he's done for other people I realized I had no idea who I was talking to. This highly revered person that when talking to him, it felt like I had known him forever already. I now know it was an honor to get to meet Barry, let alone have an in-depth conversation about life with the man. The documentary Call Me Lucky will you humble you. I know it humbled me. Go watch it and then watch it again.


Everything Is Just Words

Everything is just words. Everything. Which is to say everything is just thoughts vocalized and written down in some form or fashion. A politician gives a speech. It's just words. A group of politicians write up a bill and the president signs it into law. Just words. Same words can have different meanings and different words can have the same meaning.
The Black's Law Dictionary is full of words that you may think you know what certain words mean but they mean something totally different when standing in front of a judge. It's called legalese. It's the language of the Law Society. An officer pulls you over, asks for your license. You hand the officer a card with your likeness and your name in bold print and asks, "Is this you?" You say yes of course and now you're verbally entering into a commerce transaction. But how can a piece of laminated plastic be you? You're you! I am me. We're living breathing human beings. Words.
The officer maybe lets you go but more than likely, the department needs to generate revenue so they can patrol and write more tickets to generate more revenue. You get a citation with words on it, a date and time to go to the judge. You show up on the designated date to a dreary courtroom where you don't want to be during your lunch break. Your name gets called, you stand in front of the judge and all you want to do is get out of the building so you plead 'no contest' or 'guilty'. The judge probably won't even look up from what he's writing. He hands down the fine and asks you if you "understand"? You say yes because you think he's asking you if you comprehend what he's told you but legally speaking he's asking if you stand under his authority because that's the Legal definition of 'understand'. But you don't care. You just want to hurry up, pay up, and get out of there.

But if you would've just looked at the words on the citation for a moment. What do they mean? Who is the plaintiff? The municipality or county, depending on which department issued the ticket. We'll go with a municipality for this example. The defendant is you. Well, not you, but the name that was on the license. Maybe you ask the judge if you can ask a few questions. He says sure, again without looking up from his bench. Maybe you ask if you're entitled to a "fair & independent" trial. He'll say yes. Maybe you ask if it's possible to have a fair & independent trial if there is a direct conflict of interest? He'll say of course not. Then you ask the judge who or what he represents? The judge stops writing and finally looks up at you. "I represent the municipal court." he says. Maybe you reply with, "Can I make a motion to have this case dismissed?"
"On what grounds?"
"A direct conflict of interest."
"How do you figure that?"
"You said you represent the municipality but it's the municipality that is the Plaintiff so how can there be a fair & independent trial if the plaintiff and the judge represent the same thing?"
Because it's all just words.



It was four years ago that I was running around the Isthmus in the cold collecting signatures to get on the mayoral ballot in 2011. I turned in the required signatures a day early before the deadline only to be informed by my treasurer that I was 8 signatures short of the required field which means they scratched about 25 signatures. I double checked and triple checked and was certain I had enough but if I was eight short, then I had to scramble. It was just eight signatures. No problem, right?

My campaign manager was on a bender in Chicago. I was on my own. I grabbed the paperwork and hit the neighborhood but it was 2 o'clock on a Tuesday and nobody was home. The guys that ran Mildred's on East Johnson were kind enough to sign and inform me that politicians are crooks. I agreed and told them I was a comedian and had a few new ideas. That's what I was wanting to do. To inject more ideas to the mayoral process instead of business as usual. Next, I hit the Bou where six lovely souls having a drink decided to throw down their signatures and help a nickhart out.
I hoofed it down to city hall to turn in the signatures. The following exchange took place with one of the clerks.
Clerk: "Can I help you?"
Me: "Yes, my name is Nick Hart, I turned in signatures to get on the ballot yesterday but was just informed that I was eight signatures short."
Clerk: "Oh, you're Nick Hart, the comedian?"
Me: "I'm a comedian, yes. Not too sure about THE comedian."
Clerk: "What district are you running for?"
Me: "Ummm, all of them I guess."
Clerk: "I'm sorry."
Me: "I'm running for mayor."
Clerk: "Oh, I'm sorry.  We thought you were running for something else. That's our mistake. I'll double check these signatures but I'm pretty sure you're in the clear."

Everything checked out. I was on the ballot. I didn't even need those eight signatures.

People were asking why I was running for mayor. The main reason was that nobody cares about the mayoral race in Madison, which boasts as being a progressive town but in the 2007 election, only about 30,000 people voted out of 230,000 in the primary. That isn't even close to progressive. Hell, it's not even close to "The Majority". Upon seeing that and realizing if I just tapped a portion of the populace that normally doesn't vote i.e. the bar crowd, I could get in there and get noticed. I officially got 2% of the primary vote and unofficially got around 6% though I was only told that and it really doesn't matter anyway so I never confirmed.

One idea I had; and given the current environment with law enforcement, would probably be very popular today, was that we should have the police department operate like the fire department. They get stations throughout the city, they get a cook, places to relax and wait for a call. While they are not on a call they can hang out, laugh, and stay out of our business. There is no real reason to have police patrolling other than to "generate revenue" which is just them making you pay them so they can write your more tickets.

Money would be saved on fuel for the new fleet of vehicles that weren't really needed but the incumbent has his promises to answer to like any politician. But also the officers would be relaxed and calm. That's what I want out of my police officers as a citizen. I want them calm and in a good mood (and not racist.)

So here we are four years later. Who are the players this time? We got serial mayor Paul Soglin, former Dane County Supervisor Richard Brown, former alder Bridgett Maniaci, and Ald. Scott Resnick

The incumbent, Mayor Soglin, who word on the street loves to gamble. I dare not judge for I love to gamble too but is that what Madisonians want or need? Can we really gamble with the Isthmus?
Richard Brown may be a good choice but who wants to work with anyone from The County?
Bridgett Maniaci has been around but that's just the point, She's an insider and I don't think she has high enough a profile to get anyone out to vote for her.
Scott Resnick. Who? Exactly.

Then there is your old buddy Nick Hart. My name won't be on the ballot because I know there is a reason one only has the month of December to collect signatures. It's the holiday season, it's cold and most people couldn't care less in such a progressive town. But if you do decide to pay any attention to the mayoral election, listen to what the candidates have to say and if none of them strike your fancy, feel free to write my name in on the ballot. If you don't pay attention then you will get what you paid for and there will be no refunds.

Do realize this. None of these candidates truly care about you or the city. They have their agendas and their money making alliances. You can't believe anything a politician says. How do I know this? I know this because I care exponentially more about the city of Madison and it's citizens than any of the candidates and guess what, I don't give a shit about any of ya'll and that is honesty you will not get from anyone on this ballot. It is not a race, it's a circle jerk and Madison is in the middle of the circle.

-Cheers and happy holidays!   NSH


One of the first times I remember meeting the five foot Colombian was a slow night at the Paradise. Frandu was lurking around the bar. I watched him as he got to where I was sitting with some friends. I recognized him as the new old guy down at the open mic at the comedy club. I told him his weird kind weren't exactly wanted at this bar. "How many people have you killed?" Frandu asked.
"Today? Or this month?" I replied.
"Ohhh, someone is a big big man." Frandu bellowed.
That's how I became friends with the man locally known as Frandu. He's like having Danny DeVito for a friend if Danny DeVito was a 65 year old Colombian. He's known among comedians from New York and Boston to San Francisco. A legend of sorts. A man that waited until the winter years of his life to blossom into a fluttering ball of energy that cannot be ignored. In fact, the more you try to ignore his energy, the more powerful it becomes. Some people don't know what to think of Frandu when they first meet him. He has a trusting face and a disarming smile. Like a spanish spouting St. Nick on vacation who won't hesitate on telling you what is on his mind and what he really thinks of you.
Four years later after that fateful evening at the Paradise Lounge and one of the most unlikely of characters has become on of my best friends. He truly has never met a stranger. We've logged a lot of miles and a lot of hours and he's inspired the web series that he is also the star of. Frandutopia is a look into the life of the man known simply as FRANDU.

Please look up Frandutopia on YouTube. Enjoy and share. You won't be disappointed.


Comedians Are Horrible People and Still Better Than Civilians

Stand-Up comedy is just a few tokes away from being a cult. No matter where you go in this great country, you'll find a group of certain people packed into cafe's, bars, and basement restaurants trying to turn something normal people are grossly offended by into something hilarious. Whether it be AIDS, rape, abortion or even something as appalling as politics, comedians are there in the trenches trying to make the world a better place or just to ease the pain in their own heads by getting a group of strangers to laugh at their thoughts. Comedians are sick people.

I don't tell rape jokes. Mostly because I believe in writing what you know. Rape isn't funny. I've dated girls that have told me they've been raped. I've also dated girls that whispered into my ear "I want you to just rape me." which throws out a weird signal. However, rape jokes CAN be funny. I don't tell rape jokes because I've never raped anyone. Like I said, I write what I know. But if I had raped someone, you'd better believe I'm telling jokes about it, quietly, to myself, in my cell in prison because that's what happens when you rape people.

AIDS is hilarious. It always amuses me that people think AIDS is horrible. AIDS isn't in my top ten worst things that could happen to me. I nearly chopped my leg off with a chainsaw twice, in one day. If I had sawed through my leg, I would have been lying there in the woods with one leg bleeding to death thinking "Oh, AIDS next time. This sucks." The point I'm trying to make is that my Magic Johnson memorbilia was suppose to be worth way more by now. Magic was a hero to me and now he's in his 50's, has the virus that causes AIDS and he still in better physical shape than I am and I always work better with a deadline so AIDS wouldn't be that bad.

Abortion jokes are fairly hack. I enjoy drinking, a lot! I've found over my binging career that pedialyte makes a great hangover cure and ever time I crack a fresh bottle of pedialyte I make sure to pour a little out and down the drain for all those dead Maybe Babies out there. My would've been homies. Normal people hear those thoughts and think "My God, what is wrong with Nick? Maybe Babies?" Comedians read that and think, "How could that be funnier?" Those are the people I like to surround myself with.

I use to have friends. Normal friends who did normal things. But now after five years into doing stand-up, most of those "normal" friends are gone. The normal ones or civilians I do keep in touch with live thousands of miles away so it's easy to just shoot a text or message on FB and you look like a thoughtful friend. But any normal friends that lived in town are gone. They are still around, they just don't hang out with me anymore. Mostly because I prefer the company of comedians. When you're in the company of comedians as a comedian, nothing is off limits. No topic or idea is too edgy or too silly. The only judgement is if it's funny or not. If it isn't funny, well try again. If it is funny, thanks for the laugh buddy.

 Well, here's a shocker for the squares with their Ken & Barbie ideals and lifestyles; most comedians are depressed for it is not an indication of mental health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. And this society that we live in is most definitely sick. The symptoms are all around us; stand-up comedy being one of them.  I'll come right out and say it that I probably will be the one to end my own life. That's isn't any sort of threat or cry for help. In fact, its the opposite of a cry for help. I got things to do, get out of my way. It's a thought and the thought of ending my own life when I feel the time has come provides me with great comfort. It's the one thing I can call my own. If you're reading this and you're feeling uneasy, you probably aren't a comedian.

Comedians are just more fun to be around, most of the time. I've always supported the notion that if comedians ran the world, the world would be a much better place. Maybe, maybe not. But I do know if I'm going to be lied to, at least make me enjoy it. Comedians are horrible people but they are better than most.