Bits and Pieces: Ben Feldman’s “‘Toothpick Guy’ vs. ‘Dental Floss Guy’”

Over the course of a comedian’s life he or she will experience thousands of jokes – some of them, they might even like. In the spirit of comics loving comedy, we present a short form journal of the Bay’s best comedians talking shop and throwing shine on their favorite jokes/bits/stories heard over and over and over again in cafes, clubs, and anywhere else with a microphone. 

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Courting Comedy Officially Returns.

Hey folks, welcome back. I know, it seems just yesterday that the blog went on hiatus. One might assume the brief break was a presumptuous misstep, a short-sighted call for attention or a smoke screen for a holiday. Alas, as quickly as it returned, Courting Comedy was dead. 

In the midst of a lovely conversation at the Brainwash, the very fruits of my entertainment (a glass of Pabst Blue Ribbon) became the ultimate source of chaos. One false move and the amber nectar splashed a leaky, lethal injection onto my laptop. My laptop, the pride and joy, crux of my creative and professional endeavors, the keeper of my passwords and past words, was finished. To properly frame the predicament: not only would I cease to work, I would cease to eat; I would cease live.

I live on a diet of stale bread, student loans and spaghetti. My income is more modest than a rural mime. I planned to shuffle around town, shave my head, grow out my beard, write notes on napkins that I would never post for people who would never read them. My love of comedy would have melted away into bitterness and eventually I would watch the stage with dead, sunken, joyless eyes. Worse, it was my fault. Such mistakes, such regrets, such shame only enhance listless loneliness (different story, different day), and I was completely ready to give up. 

Thankfully, I’m blessed with some remarkable friends. One such compadre is David Cairns, a man I’ve admired from my baby steps at the House of Shields to the James Browning at Madrone Art Bar. Love is a depressingly shallow word for what I have for David, the George Harrison to my Monty Python. He saved my life (no exaggeration). Funny, yesterday he stated that he was a “business man” and that my work was his “investment”. Now I shall work even harder to warrant such generosity. Those who know gasp at that idea; I’m a tireless servant to San Francisco Bay Area comedy. Personally, any other life is a not a life worth living.

Thank you. Love you. Laugh you.

- O.J.

P.S. When you see David Cairns ( @davidcairns ), give him a big hug on behalf of Courting Comedy. 

I went up at the Punch Line Sunday Showcase for the second time last night and I felt like Dock Ellis. I wasn’t on LSD but I was quite inebriated. I’m glad it turned out well but hope to never find myself in that situation again. Cheers.

Abbey Jordan spins a tapestry of her stage time abroad in the City of Light.

I bounded the stage at the San Francisco Punch Line for the first time last night. A very enthralling moment. I was giddy when I was told I might go up, ecstatic when I was told I would go up, and brimming over when I was waiting in the wings. Coree Spencer (who performed previously) started tapping my stomach with soft punches like a furious chibi pixie. I accidently touched one of her boobs in self-defense [total accident]. 

Coree: Was that for good luck?

OJ: [Relenting] Yeah. [Later] Maybe [your boobs] like the stump at the Apollo.

The wonderful Lynn Ruth Miller [host] asked me my last name. She was afraid she was going to mess my introduction up. She affirmed that I would do well “…because blacks [me] and Jews [herself] always do well [in comedy, historically].”

OJ: Oh I know, look at “Blazing Saddles”.

My brain was vibrating. The closest approximation would be Stunt by Mr. Oizo

Onstage I felt like a Miyzaki film with a Stax film score. It was so much FUN. The set was a cognitively jumbled mash-up of material I don’t remember writing, instinctively recalled from a Roladex of (well-tested) musings. The light. Closer. And a leap off stage. When my peers and heroes congratulated me afterwards, well, James can explain it better than I can.

Thanks for reading. 

"Blog" is a bit of a misnomer in this case. Hobo Pancakes is more of an online journal with articles and art based on a monthly theme. This month’s theme is "Adolescence".

Hobo Pancakes is one year old!  That’s the onset of puberty, in online absurdist literary journal years.  Even though we’re breaking out, stuffing our training bras and trying to hide our braces, we’ve still managed to put together a youthful mix of sophomoric stories, puerile poems and awkward art.

The lovely and talented team of Kelly Anneken and Isa Hopkins are the editors of this web publication so a high quality comedic product is to be expected.


Great time last night at the inaugural event of Marga’s Funny Mondays at The Marsh, Berkeley. If there’s one thing that’s been running through my head since my set last night, it’s something that Miles K mentioned to me in passing a couple of months ago. He told me that one of the toughest/worst…

iLs Goldbarg gives a detailed description of a recent gig in Berkeley. The struggle and growth of comedians always fascinates me, and iLs does a great job at describing her journey.

Onion Juice: Countdown to the Purple Onion (Build Up, Slow Down)

10 DAYS FROM MY SHOW AT THE PURPLE ONION: 0 tickets sold. I have people claiming they are going to come but I’m not sure about a few of them. I have a lot of broke/young friends. I still have a lot of people to ask and enough leeway for them to say yes. When money and tickets start exchanging, then I’ll be a little more at ease.

My problem has been a combination of preoccupation and a fever to write. I’ve been hustling this new bit I started writing when Jabari gave me the show date and I’ve been keeping up with the scene on here. Thus a lot of time inside and not enough on the street rallying like I want to. That will change soon though.

I think what’s bringing me down a bit about the show is that my mom said she wasn’t going to be there. My mom has been to a few of my shows before but this is the big one. I can’t even pretend I’m not bummed by her absence, I do/did most things in my life with my mom in mind. Just wish she could see the hard work I’ve been putting in.

And if anybody who reads this blog just wants to buy a ticket, out of donation or mere curiosity to how I perform, please let me know. I’ll find where you are and bring the ticket to you. I’ll probably be in running attire. I don’t know who reads this blog but it’s worth a shot eh?

Onion Juice: Countdown to the Purple Onion (Melanie O’Brien)

So hopefully you know by now that I’m performing at the Purple Onion on August 28. Tickets are in the mail and I will start hounding everybody I know to see if they want in on what’s going to be an amazing night.

Recently (yesterday) at the Brainwash, I was accosted by Melanie O’Brien. She’s apparently a fan of the blog but questions why she hasn’t been present in the popular word collages of phrases from the nights previous. Her tone was angry. I explained to her that I hadn’t seen her in a while and that I usually just include jokes I remember. No Melanie sets heard, no placement on the collage. She blows me off to talk to the nearby Jabari Davis (Promoter/Headliner of my show at the Purple Onion) so I explain to Vlad that I already had plans to highlight Melanie in the “Onion Juice” portion of my blog as one of my favorite things about the show occurring. That exchange sped the process up considerably. This is that blog…

I love Melanie O’Brien.

From the first syllable of her act on an off chance night at 800 Larkin in the Tenderloin to the confines of forever I’ve been/will be huge appreciator of Melanie as a fan a comedy and a fan of people. 

It’s hard to quantify what Melanie does, because any one statement can sideswipe the deck of cards that she’s crafted for herself. Parallels can be made, but I refuse to make them because Melanie is gutsy beyond allusion. She ultimately lives in the same vein as I try to: to become legendary.

Fame is great (I guess), infamy is more fun, but legend is the true goal. With legend you become beyond oneself as faults are cast aside or glared at forever. Your accomplishments are a laundry list when you’re a legend. People know about you without even meeting you. It’s good to be a legend.

But legends don’t happen all the time. It takes a long time of living life to the fullest, making the most of every situation. To become a legend you have to be special. And Melanie is special.

I’ve seen her murder rooms, I’ve seen her bomb. I’ve seen her execute her act flawlessly, I’ve seen her argue with bar patrons about the basketball game they’re watching. I’ve heard the coyest, most adorable, and ultimately horrifying statements come out of her mouth. I’ve heard stories about the bluest sets in front of the youngest of children. I’ve seen her talk about being on a bike and getting hit by a car, and still having impeccable comic timing (“I’m on the phone!”). I’ve seen her talk about that story, while her cuts still bleed. All the while, Melanie remains poised and endearing. She’s mastered one of the annuls of show business: keep the people wanting more.

So, low and behold who is the same Jabari Davis and Associate flyer as me.

That’s right, one of my favorites: Melanie O’Brien.

She’s on the same list as Kaseem Bentley, Donny Divanian, Mary Van Note, and DJ Real: comedians that I love. She’s up there for a good reason too: she’s following two dreams.

Mel gets my respect because in addition to being an uber-talented comedian, she’s also chasing her dream of practicing law. Two very demanding careers running concurrently. I know from first hand experience that it’s a major sacrifice and draining to a ridiculous degree. And thusly, kudos and excitement are in order for Melanie O’Brien.

I can’t wait until my mom hears one of her rape jokes. 

The Art of Bombing (Journal)

To bomb is to fail. It is the surefire avenue into depression. It’s what comedians dread the most, attempt to avoid but will succumb to many times. Bombing is the common cold of comedy: incapacitating, disastrous, but necessary to build immunity. It sucks.

“Bombing” is comedy jargon for performing and receiving a disarmingly negative reaction, usually in the form of silence. Inversely to do well is to “kill” or “murder” or “crush”. I personally would have called the former “Poseidon” and the later “tickled”. (I totally Poseidoned/I had them tickled!) Comedy is too violent and bombing is brutal.

The mechanics of bombing have a number of tiers. First bombing encountered is usually “newbie” bombs: tiny, little, pink bombs sucking on pacifiers. Screaming follows the explosions from these bombs, as the soul wrenching reality that the untested thoughts of a shaking amateur aren’t as funny as previously thought. Another tier is the venue bomb: scud missiles composed of disjointed production garble (bad lights, bad mic, bad everything) that makes comedy more difficult than it already is. Audience bombs are improvised explosive devices that shoot shrapnel everywhere. The jokes are torn to shreds due to an uncommon set of references or a difference in comedic opinion. Carpet bombs are the ones dropped from drones because the room is devoid of human existence. Radioactive bombs occur when a person bombs so hard that the room is locked and the death lingers for the next few performers. Hecklers are timed-bombs; their presence is alarming, disarming and fatal unless deactivated. Sleeper cell bombing occurs when the material is polished and sparkling but the performer isn’t feeling it and has “fail” coursing through every neuron and fiber of his or her being. Lastly is the kamikaze (personal favorite) where due to an internal crisis, the performer chooses to self implode and bring the audience down in their misery.

“I’ve bombed everywhere” – Paul F. Tompkins.

Funny people bomb. Unfunny people bomb. Funny people kill. Unfunny people kill. It’s a precious fact of life.

It’s a fact of life that one’s heart will sink into the hallow recesses of their stomach. Fact: people will shake and stutter and flub against a few pity snickers. It is not uncommon to want to run, to take flight in fearful fancy, to quit. Hate, bitterness, apathy and resentment may clutch at a funny person, warp them due to broken promises and empty sacrifices. All these emotions can be potentially uncovered by bombing.

But, at the risk of sounding like a jerk, I love it when people bomb. When an open mic level comedian bombs, it’s like viewing an epiphany. They are quickly learning in a trial by fire and the experience will either reinforce or break them. It’s as exciting as a cup of coffee at dawn while overlooking a robot manufacturing plant. (“Those T-100s are coming along nicely”.) When I see somebody competent that I don’t know bomb, it’s like hearing a tribute. I intensely listen for all the beats and punchlines and laugh at the absence of laughter. For comedy compadres that I know, it’s a delight to see them bomb because those are the breaks and bombing is ultimately fodder for the charmingly antagonizing relationship most comedians have with each other. The shit giving, piss taking, razzing, ribbing “business” relationship comedians have grown accustom to as the social status quo. It’s exciting to see an established comedian use bombing to trigger a rant at the audience. It’s amazing to see others turn bombing into a riff jamboree. It’s inspiring to see professionals continue their act with the same commitment and energy whilst standing in smoke and blood (ignoring the explosion).

I take pleasure from these things because bombing isn’t an infinite MC Esher loop. More than often the desired affect will be achieved. People will laugh, and pride will bloom. The bombing will be worth it and the moment of success will be crystallized. The high will be immense as exiting stage right gains entrance to applause and high fives. It will be a small victory in a long-standing war as the comic awaits the next stage: to kill or be killed.