Surprisingly Affectionate

"Surprisingly Affectionate is one of the most uniquely funny, endearing, and honest comedy specials that's been released in recent memory. It's more than a comedy special. It's an emotional ride!"                

- TrĂ³shan Chisal (WSJ)

    In November of 2017, I was out in Seattle competing in the 38th Annual Seattle International Competition. My friend Dana was about to tie her battle with cancer at the age of 28. The competition lasts a month and Dana passed away back in Wisconsin at the end of my first week in Seattle.
    It was near mid December when I got back to Madison, nearly three weeks after Dana passed. I had not dealt with it. I ended up writing two songs sort of as therapy. I knew I didn't really want to do standup for a while but I did want to convey a message, an emotion. I ended up doing a run of three or four "1 man" shows where I just told stories and sang a few songs. I liked it because it got me out of my comfort level in regards to performing and it wasn't stand-up. It was something that connected more on a deep level.
   It was then that I was approached by my friends Allie and Carlos from MOD Media. They stated their interest in possibly doing a project with me. I pitched them this idea of a stand up comedy special/unplugged storytellers type show. Fortunately for me, they really liked the idea. We scouted a venue, set up the show, the cameras, the audio, all right there at The Venue on Winnebago. We recorded two shows that night. Carlos walked backstage after the first show and said, "Dude, I think we got it on the first show." I nodded. It's hard to tell sometimes as a performer how it went in the moment.
   After that night came the real task of putting together and editing a comedy special. Carlos and I sat for hours editing and making this idea come alive on screen. The result of that work and cooperation is my comedy show, Surprisingly Affectionate. A comedy special that asks the question, "Is this void even on?"

Special thank you to Allison Lenz and Carlos Guzman. This would have never happened without the two of you. Thank you for helping me bring this idea into the physical realm.


So What'd Ya Learn?

"You ran for mayor? So what'd ya learn?" Barry Crimmins is the only person to ask me that question. It's been over a week since the primary. The campaign received 1% of the primary vote, down from the 2% in 2011. This race was a lot more interesting than 2011. There was some hope mixed in with uncertainty when Mayor Soglin announced he wasn't seeking re-election. Then he decided to have another go. Soglin's decision to re-enter the race didn't really change much for our campaign. The whole purpose of me running was to get involved completely while trying to get folks who hardly, if ever, vote in municipal primaries ie the bar crowd to show up to vote.

And I was right, they don't vote and they still don't. And I don't blame them. If I wasn't on the ballot I couldn't give a capital cursive F for fuck who the mayor is. But I said I was going to do it and I have a dreadful habit of following thru on things when I say I'm going to do them.

So what did I learn this time?

     Well, I learned from reporters and other political operatives in the city that everyone thought I was going to turn it into a circus, and this was all a publicity stunt. In essence, just going to roast the mayoral race. First off, if this was a publicity stunt, I failed horribly, and I like to think I could pull off a successful publicity stunt. I could've turned it into a circus and maybe I should've. But I did have an honest interest in how the whole process really works. From getting on the ballot to the forums to interviews with reporters to the actual vote. If anything, to learn how to play the game better next time, if there is a next time. I doubt there's a next time.

When Barry asked what I learned, I said, "It's all bullshit!" Barry laughed, "Yeah be weary of any individual that wants to be in charge by winning a popularity contest." Barry said. I laughed because it is just that. A popularity contest by a small portion of the population. It is thought that as many as 50% of the 15-20% of the Madison population vote on straight up name recognition when voting in mayoral primaries.

Barry's right, it's all bullshit. I sat there on stage in that first forum at the Barrymore in front of 600 people between write-in candidate Tori Petteway and Mo Cheeks. The moderators kept it light but they handed out "yellow interjection cards" for 30 second rebuttals that each candidate got 5 and then one "red card", that was more pink, that were good for 2 minute rebuttal. Tori blew thru her 5 yellow cards in the first 15 minutes of a 2 hour long forum.

During this forum they have someone sitting in the front row holding up different color construction paper, a yellow paper that says "30 seconds" and then a red blank piece of paper that is to signal time is up. I began to sense the bullshit when each candidate would talk, often not answering the question asked, but they would just say buzzwords and then would stop mid sentence, mid-word even. Why? because they're not really saying anything. It's all just rhetoric.

Tori had stopped mid sentence when she saw the red paper in the first row. She said to me, "I still have more to say." To which I replied, "Tori, in standup comedy, we call this running the light. Just talk until the moderator shuts you up. Fuck 'em!" She laughed and proceeded to do so but she was out of yellow cards so I handed a few of mine to her, getting a rather audible laugh from the crowd, which was the right response because it was funny but some blowhard who wrote an article mentioned it was a clever way to "leverage my privilege." To that I say, TONE Magazine sucks! The same jackass who wrote that actually signed my nomination papers unless I'm mistaken but I'm certain I'm not.

During closing statements, one of the candidates, I don't remember who, Satya or Soglin were wrapping up their pleas when Mo Cheeks asked me if I would let him have one of my cards. I said, "What am I handing out cards to everyone now? Mo, we're running for mayor, just raise your hand and say you have something you'd like to add." I didn't have any cards to give, I only had 5 yellow ones, gave 3 to Tori, used the other two each and used my red card twice I think.

What else did I learn? I learned what code-switching is. It's just assimilating. But for the most part it just confirmed what I learned in 2011. There is very little interest in municipal politics. How do I know? I ran for mayor and I can count on one hand how many people asked me how the campaign was going. Only ONE local comic showed up to show any support at the forums and that was Frandu.  But I find that to be indicative of the scene these days but that'll be discussed some other time, if it is ever really worth talking about.

So what's next? Not running for any public office, that's for fuck sure. Back to getting and being creative. I have a project in mind, a double album consisting of stand-up comedy, storytelling, and songs about lost friends. The working title: Is This Void Even On? so look for it in February of 2020. I pretty much have to do it now that I said I would and habits are hard to break. #ITVEO2020


An Hour Of Your Time at the Brink Lounge

This Friday at the Brink Lounge, I'll be running thru a new hour in prepping for recording a special to shop around to Netflix, HULU, Prime, Who ever will pay for it, etc. It's going to be a fun time to kick off the weekend. It's going to be a show of great local talent with Rich D'Amore hosting, Craig Smith featuring and Seth Endres popping in for a guest set. $10 cash at the door, Doors at 8, show starts at 8:30. Looking forward to seeing all of you there. Come and get your chuckles off ya hard working fuckles!



The Madison Mayoral Race Begins

I ran for mayor of Madison in 2011. I received 2% of the primary vote in February and as the joke goes, I only spent $120 of my roommate's money. That is the first rule in politics. Never play with your own money.

I did not run in 2015 (Conan had the wrong year) I was busy writing pilots, screenplays, jokes, the bits that pay the bills, sometimes, producing shows, drinking with all of you, moving the money around, having comedy royalty stop in to do some time. It happened, and most of you missed it. But for those that were there, we know.

Careful Nick, that sounds like bragging. Maybe it is? It's definitely a fact.

So racing season is upon us. The race to the beauracratic top. I'm pretty sure that is misspelled but that's how I write and approach my craft. No safety net or safe places, utter contempt for an audience, and sure as hell no spell-check.

A few have already declared their bid, trying to get a head start on the rhetoric. Those that have declared are Mo Cheeks, who if the vote was on name alone, he'd have mine. Mayor Mo Cheeks? Ya don't hate it.

There is Brenda Konkel who I am completely unfamiliar with though I have heard things said on bar stools (nothing bad by any means) which isn't really word on the street, it's close but not close enough to have an opinion. One thing is for sure, she is working harder than all of you who aren't running for mayor. It only takes 200 signatures folks. Name on the ballot. Brenda knows. Mayor Konkel doesn't have a bad ring to it either. I think we have the same birthday. Happy Bday Brenda.

Then there is Satya Rhodes-Conway, another city council member. Again, not familiar so I have to research.

Mitch Henck mentioned in his "Two Minutes with Mitch", he asked, "Does the Madison mayor race open door for a moderate?"

A few people have asked if I was going to run again? It's being considered. I'm not a politician but I am in show business, albeit stand-up comedy, the lowest rung of show bizz.

Paul Soglin is not seeking re-election. Does that open the Madison mayoral race for a comedian?

One thing is for sure, I'd be the only candidate with a late night tv credit. I know, I am an ass. But think about it. A comedian getting elected mayor? We could turn the entire city into a reality show and generate them show-bizz dollars.

The primary is 2/19/19. Don't! Get Involved!


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.