Well, I’m back from the West coast. I was only there for two and a half weeks but it felt longer than that. What an eventful trip it was. Let me fill you in.

I first flew into Las Vegas to try out for the Las Vegas Comedy Festival. I got three minutes to impress two judges. No audience. Just two judges-industry folks. Not since prom night have I thought that three minutes is a long time, but it can be…as I learned that day with those judges. Cold fusion will become a reality before industry folks laugh at a comic. It’s nothing against them…it’s just that they’ve heard so many jokes and routines over the years that humor rarely affects them like it used to. Like Hugh Heffner and the Playmates (insert your own Viagra joke here).

As for the Las Vegas Comedy Festival…it is taking place this week and I’m in Greenwood, Indiana. Does that answer your question? But it was a lot of fun trying out.

Vegas is a unique town to say the least. Neon outnumbers oxygen molecules, and I had the rare opportunity to gamble on the Mets to lose (and therefore win money) instead of just bitching about them and throwing stuff at the TV. But I digress.

The casinos were fun. But you shouldn’t do some things that I did. For example:

  • Don’t ever go to Las Vegas in August. It is ungodly hot, and nobody likes pit stains.
  • Don’t wear a colored shirt (see above suggestion).
  • Don’t expect to win…you won’t. In some ways, Vegas is like Wrigley Field with better looking women. Those billboard ads you see that show people laughing and smiling with fistfuls of cash…they don’t exist. Never have. It’s all clever propaganda used to get naïve folks like me to hit on 17.
  • Don’t abbreviate the names of the games. Like if you’re looking for the blackjack tables, don’t ask a waitress for the “BJ section”. She will only slap you and take your wallet.
  • Don’t bring your own playing chips. Or checkers pieces that kinda sorta look like playing chips. The dealers will catch on and kick you out.
  • Don’t go alone. Bring a friend, relative, even the guy from work nobody likes to eat lunch with because he makes slurping sounds when he dips his roast beef sandwich. Bring anybody. Walking around the casinos by yourself will make people stare at you and laugh. By the way, make sure you’re zipper is up.
  • Don’t randomly yell out “CHANGING A HUNDRED!” They don’t like that.

It was my first time to Vegas, and yes…prostitution is legal. I didn’t partake in the services, but the culture shock of it all was comical. Like the pimps. Because the practice was not illegal, pimps don’t have to be discreet. In fact, they took on more of a car salesman approach. “What will it take to get you in this redhead?” was commonly asked. If you have a girl with you he may even offer trade-in value.

Another little discovery I stumbled across was that drinks are free if you are gambling. It doesn’t matter if you’re winning or losing, they figure if you’re stupid enough to throw away money on a game like Caribbean Stud, you could use a scotch and soda. Let me repeat that…drinks are free. Free drinks! No wonder people get married in Vegas. They save so much on liquor costs, just as long as they put a roulette wheel by the cake.

I only spent two days in Vegas and actually came out even…I didn’t lose one single checkers piece.

Then it was off to Los Angeles to check out the comedy scene and maybe try out for the Sparks.

I spent two solid weeks in LA and enjoyed every day of it. I stayed with my good friend Justin, his wife Amy, and their 7-month old son Jacob. Another old buddy starting a family. Just another reminder that everyone is growing up except me. Jacob was cute as you can possibly imagine. His laugh and smile lit up the room and made everyone forget about their problems. He actually made me want a family of my own, then I recalled my nephew’s last birthday party at Chuck E Cheese and I decided I’d wait and later adopt a teenager to cut the lawn.

The comedy scene in LA is primarily in a downtown filled with legendary clubs: the Improv, the Comedy Store, the Laugh Factory. I visited them all. The Improv was filled with history and celebrities. Side note: Catherine Zeta Jones is one hell of a kisser. Okay, just kidding. But Esther the bathroom attendant is. What can I say…beergoggles came with the whiskey shots.

I stood in line for over seven hours to get three minutes stage time at the Laugh Factory’s open mike. The line of comics became like a family for a day-broke, out of work, yet still hopeful. We shared road stories, joke premises, and Ramen Noodle recipes. I can’t wait to try that “Gooey Chicken”-thanks, Arsenio!

Then there are other, smaller venues. Some are great like San Gennaro (shout outs to Joe and Rob at www.heylady.com who run the room) and some are not so great. But they were all fun. It seemed like every bar and restaurant had a comedy night, but some failed to tell the customers. It was not uncommon to tell jokes to tables of people who are eating, drinking, and talking about waxing body parts. Sometimes it was like being in a city of Cantinas, only without the two-for-one drinks (Nashville gets that joke).

As you can imagine, the city is overflowing with comedians. Every single one is looking for stage time…if they can ever find a parking space first. And all the comics were cool folks. We all bonded and discussed the far-fetched possibility of doing more than 6 minutes on stage somewhere in LA. Ah, to dream. You will be able to see LA’s skyline from a mile away before a young no-name gets a longer set.

I can’t possibly list all the places I visited to either perform or watch comedy. The city is jam packed full of comedy. LA is the bran and comedy is the raisins. LA is the omelet and comedy is the cheese, or the ham, or ham and cheese if you can afford to splurge on such a meal. And it was all a blast.

Special thanks to my good buddy Tanya Lee (www.tanyaleedavis.com) who helped me along, partied with me, and even let me sleep on her couch for three days. I met plenty of cool people and caught up with old road comics I hadn’t seen in a while. Good times!

Although my tryout for the comedy festival and my tryout for the Sparks flopped, I had a ball out West.

Thank you, Los Angeles!

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