Sit Down Comedy … July 31st, 2020

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Sit Down Comedy

Old people talk about old things.

That’s how you know they’re old.

They think they’re relevant. They think they’re talking about new things.

But they’re wrong.

They are old people talking about old things, sounding an SOS:

Same Old Shit.

The trouble is, not all old people are collecting Social Security. Some of the old people talking in our generation are supposed to be young. But for some reason, they’re talking about old stuff.

I don’t know why.

The Civil War? Are you nuts? Are we really still discussing a flag of a group of rebellious traitors who wanted to subjugate a race of people to be their slaves and decided to fight on every flat spot in the Eastern U. S., to try to prove their point?

The Civil War is over.

It has been decided. Slavery is not coming back. So all your banners are outdated. If you’re still talking about it, you are goddamned old.

Abortion? This has been settled.

It’s a nasty procedure that no one really wants to claim but needs to be a freedom given to a woman—because it’s her body. Sure, we would hope that it would not be used as birth control, or a way to get even with conservatives. But the discussion is over. If you’re still talking about it—pro or con—you’re decrepit.

And referring to politics, I wouldn’t even know where to start.

Republican and Democrat? These are things my grandparents talked about. You can tell it’s old stuff. The parties still use flyers, bumper stickers, buttons, slogans, attack ads… Are you kidding me? This stuff is old for old.

The election is really simple. We need to put somebody in the government who will allow us to live our lives fruitfully, make sure the roads are paved, and don’t blow up the rest of the world. If you want to call those “issues,” then I guess you could have one of your debates.

I stand dumbfounded when I hear people talking about race.

Are we really discussing color? Because honest to God, so many people have tattoos, I don’t know what color they are.

I heard an old woman say, “I just don’t think it’s right for black people and white people to marry and have children.”

“Fine,” I told her. “Then you probably shouldn’t fuck a rapper. And maybe don’t watch somebody else do it either.”

I’m astounded when I hear old people talking about rich and poor.

It’s so OLD. Get what you can and help everyone else. How hard can that be?

And by the way, can anything be older than religion?

We spend all of our time in a church talking to people (who are wearing jeans and crocs) about patriarchs in Israel. Old people talking about old things—stinking up the joint with old.

Can we ever get over the idea that men and women have to fight with each other? It’s so damn old.  Maybe we could do something new.

We could counteract our entertainment and create shows where men listen, and women are reasonable.

It’s all about human rights.

We cannot let these unfortunate, mentally stalled old people continue to insist on the fact that a few human wrongs should still be discussed.

You can identify old people because they talk about old things in an old way.

I would think, after Covid-19, we should be able to hear a scream coming from America. “I don’t want to debate the issues anymore!”

Don’t we all want to live in an America where there are only two rules?

Do the best you can.

Help somebody out when you can.

 

Drawing Attention … October 10th, 2018

 

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Bink … September 15, 2013

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harleyHe came rolling up on a Harley Davidson motorcycle, dressed all in leather, with a black curly beard that lay on his chest as if it was resting from priestly duties. He climbed off, walked over, shook my hand and told me his name was Bink.

I was a little intimidated, so awkwardly, I asked him if Bink was short for anything. He explained it was the nickname his little nephew had given him because the tyke didn’t know how to say “bike” and instead, called him “Bink.” It was so cute and silly that I normally would have made fun of it, but looking at the motorcycle and the intimidating tattoos, I passed.

I began to wonder how I ended up with my two female cohorts at this particular gig. it was 1973 and I was only a couple of years out of high school. The dampness behind my ears was still drying. I had driven all the way to Detroit in my beat-up van, inserting a quart of oil every 100 miles ritualistically–just so the engine wouldn’t blow up.

The two girls with me didn’t know what to wear, so they each brought a prom dress for the occasion. Seeing Bink, I realized we were a bit overdressed. Matter of fact, some of the teenagers who were arriving for the evening bare-footed and in blue jeans began to peer at us and laugh.

Bink put an arm around me and led us inside, helping us set up our equipment. So when it came time for him to introduce us to his rather Bohemian brotherhood, he said the following:

“Listen, you scoundrels, I don’t want you laughing at these folks. They’ve come a long way to talk to us about Jesus. Maybe you don’t think they’re cool, but maybe you don’t know what God thinks is cool. So maybe you oughta just shut your mouths up, sit back and let your minds be blown. Because you know me–I’m Bink. And I’m tellin’ you … they’re beautiful dudes.”

With this, he held out his hand and welcomed us to come and do our thing. The gathering of young humans burst into applause, welcoming us. It was an amazing night–our girls in their prom dresses, hugging young women in the audience in hemp blouses, sporting long greasy hair.

I thought about that tonight as I made my way to Mount Clemens to set up for tomorrow’s gig. I thought about how civilized we think we have all become by finding compartments for every little piece of our lives, alienating off anything that doesn’t quite fit into the box.

I don’t know if a guy like Bink could exist today. Maybe he would be too specialized in his work and ministry to ever accept some fresh-faced novices from Ohio. But if that is the case, we’ve lost something.

And until we find it, we’re just a bunch of cynics on a fruitless search …  for an open-minded God.

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Stop Trying… January 12, 2012

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Many years ago our music group, Soul Purpose, was just getting started and therefore found it difficult to gain any opportunity to perform in front of an audience. You see, the problem with waiting around for the perfect gig is that you have to gig perfectly. No one can do that if they haven’t had a chance to try their act out on the road in other venues. So we decided to go anywhere that anybody would invite us.  That included nursing homes, small churches, gospel sings, birthday parties, clubs, shopping malls and even on several occasions–prisons.

Yes, we were invited to perform at a maximum security prison. We showed up, passed inspection, went into the auditorium, set up all of our equipment and changed into our best duds to prepare for the excursion. About five minutes before the show was supposed to begin, the warden walked in with a horrified face. (Well, his FACE wasn’t horrific. He was just surprised to discover that we had two girls in the group.) He quickly explained that the ladies could not be allowed to perform in front of these particular inmates because safety would not be guaranteed. I just as quickly explained that we were a GROUP and did not perform separately. He apologized but said there was no way he would allow the two young women to step out onto the stage.

I asked him for a private moment for our group to deliberate. We chatted, and the girls felt I should go ahead and do the performance without them, since we were already set up. I was terrified. Let me be candid–most people who perform in a group do so because they have selected NOT to be a soloist. And on top of that, if I WERE to become a solo act, an audience at a maximum security prison would not be my choice for “breaking out.” (Pardon the pun.)

But my comrades were insistent and they said they would be backstage listening and praying for me. So we told the warden, who was very grateful, because he didn’t want to go out and cancel a concert in front of the less-than-agreeable conclave. So dressed in my Sunday best, I was introduced and strolled onto the stage and sat behind my piano and began to play and sing.

I finished my first song to complete and utter silence. There was a long pause and then one of the inmates just released a quiet, “Boo.”  The rest of them thought this was very funny, so they chorused in. In no time at all, I was surrounded with “boo” jailbirds. The warden looked nervous. I think he was trying to figure out some way to step in and bail me out. So he stood to his feet, and as soon as he did the chant of disapproval died down a bit.

I sat there for what seemed like a good ten minutes (even though it was probably ten seconds). I had no idea what to do next. I had been given an agenda–friends of mine wanted me to “preach the gospel.” My singers backstage were praying I would be able to communicate some deep truth to these lost men. But now that I was in front of them, I was just a scared little boy from Sunbury, Ohio, who was more insecure than talented, needing approval and finding none.

In the midst of this moment of silence, someone from the back of the room yelled, “You’re fat!” This particular proclamation evoked the fist applause.

When it calmed down, I leaned into my microphone and quietly replied, “That’s probably because I eat more take-out Chinese than prison food.” I wasn’t trying to be funny–just to escape the ridicule. But these gathered folk found it inexplicably hilarious. They laughed and laughed. It was weird. Suddenly I was no longer in a prison–just in a room full of people who were nervous to be around one another and had moved away from some of that trepidation through a good laugh.

Feeling a little bolder, I spoke into the microphone again. “I guess the closest I’ve ever been to a prison is …well, today.” Once again, they thought this was absolutely the funniest thing they’d ever heard. There’s something pure about a roll of laughter that cannot be duplicated in any other human expression, and dare I say, perhaps none from the angels. So I just started to talk. I didn’t talk about my work; I didn’t talk about the gospel. I didn’t talk about music. I talked about how close I came to being in the same situation they were. I told them that I hit a bad spell in my late teens where I got a girl pregnant, her parents hated me, they threatened to call the police on me, but I persevered and we got married, but then drove to New York State to abort the baby, only to change our minds as we stood before the awesome wonder of Niagara Falls.

I forgot about the audience. I was suddenly immersed in both the magnitude of the danger I had been in during my earlier life and the grace of God which brought me through. Then I realized that the audience was completely silent–matter of fact, I had never seen so many tattooed people with tears in their eyes. I risked singing another song. This time the response was different. They stood to their feet and applauded. I didn’t push my luck; I left in the midst of the standing ovation and came back out for another bow.

I then did something that made the warden very nervous. I leaped from the stage and ran out into the midst of the inmates as they surrounded me, patting me on the back, and I gave them all hugs. It was a beautiful moment. It was made beautiful because I stopped trying. Had I continued to persist in my religious training, my musical background or my stage etiquette, I would have failed miserably, blaming my surroundings for my misfortune.

I learned that day something I treasure to this moment: we have two powerful weapons in our arsenal–the true story of our lives and our sense of humor. It saved me from prison. (Well, I mean a visit at a prison.) And it can save you, too, if you’re just willing to cease following conventional wisdom and let your experience in the spirit lead you.

If at first you don’t succeed …  stop trying. Take a deep breath, regain your sense of cheer and self, wait for some inspiration and then proceed. 

With humility.

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Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

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To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!

http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

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