Fundamentally Boringly Average

So I took advantage of a rare Friday night without other obligations to head downtown to the Coalition Theatre for what looked to be a fascinating one-man show.

It was worth it.  Jim Zarling’s “Destroy The World With Me” was funny, fun, sometimes touching, and had an audience sing-along to “Bohemian Rhapsody”. All of it. That won’t happen again anytime soon. 🙂

In the post-show mingling with people I don’t see too often (because I’m at “my” theater across town), one of them (who will remain nameless to protect the over-exuberant) said “someday, I want to see Rob Hoffmann’s one-man show”.

What I told that person was that it took a decade to finally try improv.  I’m probably another 20 years away from a one-man show.

But on the ride home, I figured out the real problem with me ever doing a one-man show… I’m as white-bread as one gets.  I’m fundamentally, boringly, average.  And where’s the humor in that?

I’m middle-aged, single, childless, pet-less… there’s nothing in my life to hang a show on.  I’m the person someone who is funny uses to show that they’re different.  I’m not the funny one – and the straight man doesn’t get the show.

And I guess the timing is off.  My most-recent improv show was my worst by far. I had nothing – I couldn’t get out of my own way and I didn’t do anything to help my team.  I found out later that my show earned the theater a nasty Yelp review – it was live briefly, before the reviewer pulled it down.  That’s been on my mind for a while (to the point where I didn’t sign up for the Coalition’s Sunday night jam because I didn’t want to be terrible on someone else’s stage so soon after being terrible on mine).

Between wondering if I have the talent to pull off a one-man show, and realizing that I don’t have the material to do so, I guess that one friend will just have to be disappointed that they’ll never see me doing a one-man tour-de-force in this lifetime.

And we also talked about their interest in finding people to produce shows.  I’ve thought about doing that at CSz, but we get into a similar problem.  The things I’d enjoy producing would be fun for the performers and fun for me to organize – but they wouldn’t draw 10 cents if you spotted me 9.  My tastes in light entertainment are the one thing about me that isn’t average – and that’s even worse, because I like stuff that nobody else watches.  If nobody else watches, nobody’s going to buy a ticket.  And without ticket sales, no matter how fun a show is, there’s no point in putting the effort into it.

I guess what I’m saying is that not everyone is cut out to be a solo performer or a producer.  And that’s not bad, it’s just what it is. It takes all kinds to make a world, right?  Even us fundamentally, boringly, average types.

Good thing I’m good at IT support.  🙂

Your Virginia Presidential Ballot

For the historical record, and for the lulz (go see if you can find the website belonging to the person who believes they received control over the US economy in a divorce settlement several decades ago)…

On the ballot (alphabetical by Presidential candidate)

Write-Ins (alphabetical by Presidential candidate)

Source: Virginia Department of Elections website

Take me out to the election game…

There’s an old adage in baseball that “you’ll always win one-third of your games and you’ll always lose one-third of your games.  It’s the other third that determines success.”  Historically, the adage is fairly accurate.  The number of times a team has won less than 1/3 or more than 2/3 of their games is rather small — enough to be considered the exceptions that prove the rule.

Our two-party political system has pretty much succumbed to the same adage, which is why I’m not pinning my hopes on a third-party candidate saving us from the Trump-Clinton nightmare campaign we’re about to endure.

If you know me at all, you know what I think about Cheeto Jesus, the talking spray tan that’s stolen the Republican party.  He’s a threat to our nation, and our standing as the last world leader.

I have a lot of regrets that the Democratic party steamrollered all possible opposition in the service of getting the first female President elected.  I don’t think the Democratic campaign really showed us any kind of an alternative – it was basically the Hillary Clinton Coronation Tour, and this was definitely the wrong year for that stunt.

That said, I don’t think a third-party candidate can help.  And I’m falling back on the baseball adage for my reasoning.

We’re at a point where 1/3 of this country’s voters will blindly vote for anyone with an (R) next to their name, 1/3 will blindly vote for anyone with a (D) next to their name, and the candidates are fighting over the other third.

And that’s why a third-party candidate can’t win.  All they can do is either (1) take a few “third third” votes away from the other two candidates, with the election going to the one the third-party candidate damages less, or (2) if they are strong enough, throw the election to the House of Representatives, where the Republicans will give us President Cheeto Jesus.

It would take a third-party candidate of extreme popularity and high public regard to break into either solid party 1/3 — but Dwayne Johnson isn’t running for President.  Gary Johnson is, and most of the twin thirds have no idea who he is or why he’s running.  They certainly have no motivation, as yet, to move to him from their usual R or D perch.

Even Bernie Sanders, with his high visibility among millenials, probably won’t be able to crack the party-line voters.  He’s not “really” a Democrat (he’d been an independent in the Senate and registered Democratic only to get into the primaries), and Republicans who might like his ideas will be more likely drawn to Trump’s more strong-handed populism.

I don’t like it, but any option other than “put my vote in the best place to ensure we don’t get President Cheeto Jesus” seems far too risky this year.  Hopefully, by November, it’ll feel more palatable.

And I’m not putting my hopes into a Republican insurrection in Cleveland.  If they do dump Trump, the likely alternatives are slightly less-unhinged versions of Cheeto Jesus with better hair.

In the long run, we’ll all be dead.  But before then, it would be nice if the mainstream of both parties took the nomination process back from the extremists, so that maybe we’ll have a choice we won’t have to hold our nose and vote for in 2020.

Repeating History

When I woke up this morning to the awful news that YouTuber/singer/The Voice alum Christina Grimmie had been murdered, one name flashed into my mind.

Rebecca Schaeffer.

Rebecca Schaeffer died before Christina Grimmie was born.  Both were young performers with what seemed to be long and successful careers in front of them, and both died at the hands of stalkers who came to the conclusion that if they couldn’t “have” their target, nobody could.

Schaeffer was 21, between seasons of the CBS sitcom “My Sister Sam” (co-starring with Pam Dawber), when she answered the door of her apartment to be confronted by a stalker.  She told him to go away.  He did, then came back and shot her to death.  He said she’d been “cold” to him, by way of rationalization.

We don’t know if Grimmie had met her stalker before, and since he killed himself we may never know all the details, but Orlando police have already said he came to her concert with enough weapons to kill her several times over.

Now, as then, we are so surprised by this.

Should we be?

This is the extreme end of the same discussion we’ve been having for years. Society teaches men that women are property, then wonders why some men act out that teaching in the most graphic ways.

This is the extreme end of the world where Brock Turner gets a light slap on the wrist for depravity beyond just “rape”.

This is the world we’ve built.

Why are we surprised?

A madman is, after all, just a member of “civil” society loosed from all restraint. He takes who we are and holds it to the funhouse mirror, with nothing within himself to stop actions the rest of us would never take.

And it’s sobering to realize that nothing has changed in the almost 30 years since Rebecca Schaeffer died.  Including how easy it was for Christina Grimmie’s killer to get to her.

25 years from now, someone will be writing this post again.  Because we don’t learn.  And because there will always be madmen, showing us the dangerous and coldly brutal conclusions to society’s flawed logic.

I’m sure I’m missing a ton of nuance here, but this is a gut reaction, not a comprehensive analysis.  Take it for whatever value you find…

Casual sexism

Seen on Facebook today (it was a “favorite memory” for the writer from a year ago) — and let me make this clear, this is not about the writer, but about our society:

I would like to invent some truly permanent ink and a rubber stamp that reads “Creeper.” I would like to make the stamp about the size of a person’s forehead. I would like us all to carry one around, just in case. I think it would save a lot of people from a lot of awkward situations.

Funny, right?  It got 35 likes originally and 3 on the repost.

Now do some substitutions.

Change “Creeper” to “Terrorist” and the tag to #patriotswatchingoutforamerica.

Change “Creeper” to “Bitch” and the tag to #menwatchingoutformen.

Change “Creeper” to (a word I won’t even type here) and the tag to #whiteswatchingoutforwhites.

Still laughing?

Still find it funny?

Nope.  Not funny at all.  But because the original target was, presumably, white men, that was OK.

Why does casual misandry get a pass?

Yes, it hits home.  I’ve been accused of being a “creeper” for no more reason than I’m a big-and-tall socially-awkward lifelong bachelor.  I already live the ostracism that comes with that, and nobody’s got a rubber stamp or permanent ink waiting for me.  And I haven’t done anything – I know people who’ve done far worse and never got that label, either.

Who judges a “creeper”?  Who judges the judges?

Just as throwing around the word “Terrorist” creates terrorists, throwing around insults at innocent men creates MRAs.  I’m not going that way, but I am very sensitive to the fact that all men get blamed for a subset.  And a few more get tarred without proof simply because they’re male.

Everyone is unique.  Everyone is an individual.  Labels are corrosive.  Our society needs to stop condoning labels — all of them, even if you’re labelling a “privileged majority”.

I’m going to get pounded for this, because people are going to read into it things that I don’t mean.  As the cartoonist Scott Adams likes to say, “feel free to argue with what you hallucinate that I said”.  The floor’s open.

Improv: Act Two

It’s been a while since I’ve taken to the blog, because it’s usually easier for me to write even long-form posts on Facebook.

So I’m saving this for things that are important enough to bookmark, I guess.  And what’s happening as this post goes up on my blog is pretty important to me.  It does require some exposition first.  You can skip the indented paragraphs if you realize you know the back story… 🙂

It started in January, when I finally made the decision to take an improv class instead of thinking about taking one.  I signed up for, and took, the Winter 2016 Improv 101 class at CSz Richmond.

It turned out to be a terrific experience for a number of reasons – my classmates are a fun bunch of people that I really enjoy spending time with… one of my favorite people from my first time around at CSz, Jenni Goldsby, came in midway through to play with us… and Christine Walters is a very patient instructor. 🙂

As is the tradition, the 101 class ends with a showcase show…

…and this is where we bring everyone back in.  A week before that showcase, Christine emailed the class and asked a question — would we be interested in a different path?  Ordinarily, at the showcase, the Minor League watches and extends invitations to those players they’d like to add.

Christine simply asked… what if…?

Well, we accepted.  All but one, and it was his schedule that was the problem.

As to the rest of us?  We went into the showcase without thinking about invitations to the existing Minor League.  That’s because we already knew we were going to be a new second Minor League.  And tonight’s our first practice.  It’s starting right about the time this blog hits WordPress.

Yes, that’s the headline, all the way down here — because our group gelled so well, we were given the opportunity to found our own Minor League Team (creatively named “Minor League Team 2” because what else could we do, really?).   Christine’s our head coach, Jenni is our assistant coach.

We are a while away from another show.   We have a lot to learn before we can put on a ComedySportz match — the structure and format, and most of the trademark games, to start… so I would think we’re not going to premiere as MLT2 for a few months.  Of course, I’ll keep you posted.

So this was the second act I hinted at all along.

If I’m being totally honest, my interest is more in refereeing (hosting) than playing — but one step at a time.  I had to establish my mediocrity as a baseball player before I went into umpiring 40 years ago… I can do something similar here.  I’m just going to enjoy my weekly get-togethers with my new team and see where it goes.

There’s something still a bit surreal about people I’ve watched (and whose talent I’ve admired) for some or all of the last… 13??? … years telling me they can’t wait to see me perform (or who came to the showcase and said all those really nice things).  Thanks to everyone who’s supported my first steps into doing improv — you can’t imagine how much that’s helped.

Time to go warm up, I think.  Practice is starting… 🙂

The most hungriest time of the year…

I’ve wanted to write about this each year, but figured “no, it’s too out there for most of my friends”.

Not this year.

This Saturday, for the third (?) year running, I’ll be taking part in my friend Scott Seal’s annual tradition, Breakmas.  It’s always held the Saturday before Christmas, in the morning, at a semi-randomly selected McDonald’s.

See, the idea is to get friends together over a Big Breakfast (pronounced, for reasons I won’t get into, “Big Bruffus”) and celebrate the start of the week before the holiday.  (I know the first half of that sentence is true.  The second half?  Sure, why not?)

The best part about it is that Scott encourages his friends to celebrate it anywhere that morning (of course, “anywhere” should be interpreted as “any McDonald’s”).  Then you post your Breakmas pictures, and you’re part of the day.

I think I like the idea of having a patently silly idea (I mean, do YOU think of McDonald’s and the holidays together?) work out as a way to celebrate friends, especially if it’s ones that you don’t see all that often.

So yeah, I’ll be at the Virginia Center McDonald’s on Saturday morning around 9.  I expect to see a couple of our mutual friends from wrestling, and a bunch of Scott’s friends that I don’t know.  At least, that would match up with the first couple of Breakmases I was part of.

If you happen to be near there, and don’t mind hanging with a bunch of new friends you don’t yet know, c’mon by.

If not… there are about a gazillion McDonald’s.  Find one, grab some friends, and have a Big Bruffus (and post your pictures!).

Or come up with your own offbeat holiday tradition.  Then write about it. 🙂  I’ll read it, I promise.

Do you have a slightly-nontraditional holiday tradition?