We begin this Annual week in a state of mourning following the loss of our beloved Fidel Castro. We say our because following his retirement, Fidel, or Papa Cass as we called him, reached out to us at The Annual, hoping to find an ally in the states. At first we said no, it would be unpatriotic to work with the retired dictator, but eventually we came around. This was largely thanks to the term “retired” and promise of a great many Cuban Pesos (something we failed to realize was worthless in the United States thanks to the countless embargos placed on cuban goods).
After we formed a partnership, Papa Cass really became a Father Figure to many Annual Staffers. Unable to visit in person, we spoke with Papa Cass many times via Skype and Facetime. I personally learned how to grow and maintain a beard from the man, and on more than one occasion he assembled the whole staff and taught us how to survive an assassination attempt. These assassination survival lessons were often given while the 80 year old former-leader was out of breath and filled with adrenaline, we never knew why, but it always seemed like the attempts were fresh in his memory.
One day, little Johnny needed a ride to his Ballet lessons and Papa Cass graciously ordered a cab and spoke to Johnny on the phone the whole way to make sure he had arrived safely. On a cold night in September of 2013 a harsh storm rolled in, I was alone, but Papa Cass called to tell me a bedtime story until I was fast asleep.
Supposedly he sent us gifts but claims they were all intercepted by “those damn capitalists at the border.” He made us swear never to reveal our relationship, largely because having a second family of ragtag comedy writers would hurt his real family in Cuba. Often he would send us joke, bad jokes. They weren’t particularly blue or off-color. They were just… dad jokes. We never published them and he seemed to like that about us, we weren’t afraid to censor him just as he wasn’t afraid to censor his dissenters. We had “spunky attitudes” as Papa Cass would say.
Rest in peace Papa Cass, we are truly sorry we couldn’t give you the viking funeral you fantasized about in so many laggy skype calls.
Courtney Reynolds is a stand up comedian working in Philadelphia, he also hosts If You’re Reading This Quit Your Day Job in New York City. David Luna recently traveled to the big city to document the comedy and a small chunk of the life of Courtney Reynolds.
You can learn more about Courtney by following him @FullCourtComedy
This video was made in collaboration with the Something Art Coalition
Over the summer, Annual staffer David Luna took a road trip to New York to record and interview Courtney Reynolds. Courtney is a stand up comic working in the city, he hosts the show If You’re Reading This Quit Your Day Job, every Thursday at Bungas Den.
You won’t want to miss this original Annual video made in collaboration with the Something Art Collective, so check back here on Friday morning!
When looking for advice you may reach out to a friend or loved one. If you are particularly lonely you could seek counsel from a psychologist, a televangelist, or even a bottle of drugs. Pretty lame options considering you could always email a real-life goddess known for her red hair and deep fascination with evolutionary psychology. Though it never occurred to me to ask her for advice, I was fortunate enough to have a conversation with…
What was your first published work?
I wrote a column for my high school newspaper. I won an award, and I thought, “That’s cool.” I wanted to do it some more because when you do something well and people give you some props, you keep doing it to keep getting those props.
What were some prime motivators at that stage in your life?
I grew up in suburban Detroit, in the whitest neighborhood. Even the Puerto Rican people and the black people seemed kinda white. It was very character-free, so my great ambition was to get out of there and go to New York City. That was my prime motivator: You have to do well so you can go places and get out of Farmington Hills, Michigan.
Have you been to New York recently?
I was there a few years ago. I lived there for a long time in various slum apartments. I paid $937 for a 10×12 room and I was dating a guy who had an eight-room, pre-war apartment on the Upper West Side on Weston Avenue for $400. That’s rent control in New York. I could never manage to get that rent-controlled apartment. In my last apartment the landlords were in the Mafia, and you pay your rent on time when the Mafia are your landlords. They were great landlords. They always fixed things and were really nice. I saw my landlord being hauled away on garbage-piling violations on one of those newer “Nightline” shows. All of these places were herbal-dumpy-slum apartments. Living in Venice, I live in a little house and it’s so fantastic. If you’re having a miserable day, you look out the window and there are palm trees and hummingbirds and you think, “Oh, I won’t kill myself today because it’s so pretty out.”
What was your favorite part about living in New York City?
I give advice for a living, science-based advice, and my house right now looks like a giant fire hazard with a bed and an oven because I have these books and papers and scientific journals all over the place. But one of the pranks that my friends and I did in New York was to give free advice on the street corner. We called ourselves The Advice Ladies. We were only going to do this once because we liked to make people laugh and make ourselves laugh.
We had a servant for a while but he fired us–it was a BDSM thing and we weren’t really into that. We just wanted to have him come to our friend’s apartment and have us throw a ball across the floor so he could catch it in his teeth and crawl back to us. Then he said, “My former mistress peed on me.” And I’m like, I’m from Michigan! I’m sure there are people who do that in Michigan, but I wasn’t one of them.
We would have these adventures, and with the Advice Ladies it was so much fun. Our sign said “free advice.” We thought about doing it like Lucy from “Peanuts,” but we thought, “Who’s even going to pay a nickel?” People lined up! It was amazing–New York, free, they lined up around the block! It was fun and interesting and we really helped people, the miracle of miracles. People started asking us serious questions. We had examples on our sign like “wigs and beards, directions and nail biting,” but people would ask us serious questions. I’m thinking, “Oh my God, I didn’t even take psychology in college.” So I started reading through all of psychology. I would read through Freud and realize, “Holy shit! He just made stuff up!” I became a fan of Albert Ellis who started cognitive behavioral therapy. He and Aaron Beck created it both separately and together. It was based in reason, and he became a fan of my work. I told him I didn’t even have a PhD and he told me, “To know what you need to know, it would be a waste of time.”
Sonja Lyubomirsky researches happiness. But I look at her work and all this other work, anthropology and psychology, and I bring it in when I’m answering questions, since I do this science-based advice column that’s also funny. I translate it to normal-person language from professor-ese and try to give people some direction on the stuff they’re doing outside of the perspective of, “Hi, I’m a girl and I publish out of my house because someone gave me an advice column because they didn’t have anybody else to write it at the newspaper.” I just don’t know how other columnist can do that–give their opinion based on nothing.
What advice do people tend to seek from you the most?
It’s generally dating and relationship advice and occasionally manners, because I wrote the book Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say Fuck. People write me saying, “My neighbor’s doing this horrible thing. What should I do?” A lot of stuff people ask me I don’t put in the column because their questions are boring, but I print the interesting ones. The big problem is that people think the world should be a certain way and it should work the way they think it should, but it doesn’t work that way. There are ways things work and they may be counter to people’s intuitions, so I lay out what the science says why, especially evolutionary psychology. It’s explaining that in ways that makes sense and giving practical advice–that’s basically what I do every week.
Toby Muresianu is “a very funny engineer” working in California. His show, Unsafe Space, brings together comedians and experts to discuss pressing issues that face us today. David Luna recently spoke with Toby about the show and his approach to politics and comedy.
How’s the year been for you as an entertainer in the most entertaining year of our contemporary history?
I’ve had a lot of good, entertaining years in my lifetime, but this is probably the most ridiculous, in terms of politics. It’s entertaining. I feel like I’m a pretty boring person. I always enjoyed things being more boring and safer and better for more people rather than exciting but also terrifying. People always tell political comedians “You must be so glad that there’s lots of material with terrible politicians!” and I’m like yeah, but I’m a person first. I’m not that greedy that I’d rather live in an awful country with plenty of fodder for material.
How long have you been doing stand-up?
About 14 years now. I got off to a slower start. I was one of those guys who did it once a month, and then I got into it gradually, more in earnest around 2006. I started when I was a freshman in college so most of my focus was on studying and college stuff.
Are you pursuing comedy full time? What are your personal goals as a human being?
I had been an engineer at Microsoft for a couple of years, and then I left to do app development and stand-up comedy. I’ve done that for a number of years. Sometimes I’d be making my living doing comedy and not focusing on apps, and sometimes that would flip-flop. It’s always been a bit murky. I’ll take side jobs, engineering on a comedy podcast, working for Uber and then blogging about it. Generally, I’ve been a comedian more than anything else, doing tangential sidework related to comedy since 2009. The idea of “full time comedian” is kind of murky. I could make a living if I stayed on the road all the time, but recently I’ve been staying in LA more to focus on stuff here.
What have been your most fulfilling experiences as a comedian?
In 2013 I did the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for the first time; I did an hour long solo show. Doing that and having a big crowd some days, just for me, that was the first time I’d consistently do an hour. I’d done it sporadically before that, but this was the first time it was my full show. I’m doing an hour every night, not filling it with crowd work. It was all material that I’m proud of, not throwing in hacky jokes to fill the time.
I was also running a show at the time, a compilation show. I was running two shows a day; it was a very hard experience. You’re in charge of promoting a show, everyone who comes in is coming exclusively to see you, and when you have a shitty set you take it personally because there’s no one else to blame it on. You’re responsible for it when it’s finished, but on the flip side, when it goes well, by the end of run you’re firing on all cylinders and it’s really rewarding.
What are you involved with at the moment?
I always bite off more than I can chew, which is a blessing and curse. Right now, my big project is Unsafe Space, which is a live show and a podcast that I co-produce with my friend Lou Perez another comedian. It’s a live show where people do stand-up on controversial topics, and then there’s a response from experts in the field and a discussion with the audience.
Lent is upon us and for the next six weeks Christians will be giving up anything from chocolate to watching TV. We’ve compiled 52 essential things to quit for lent, see how many you’re giving up and tell your friends how good a Christian you are!
1-3: Fallen Angel; 4-10: Decent Christian; 11-20: Good Christian; 21-30: Altar boy; 31-40: Disciple; 41-51: John The Baptist
52: Pope Francis
- Faith in Christ
- Lean Pockets
- The type of art where you make paintings out of your vomit
- Sharing things on Facebook before doing 5 seconds of research to see if it’s made up
- Telling everyone that the fish jumped out of the water and somehow got its mouth stuck on your penis by itself
- Roller-blades (but not skates)
- Making every bun a pretzel bun
- Using the words “correctomundo” and “fo-sho” — See also: “epic”
- Alcohol over 18% (ok, maybe 31%)
- Indulgent chuckling
- Ironic appropriation of AAVE
- Having sex with your friends’ boyfriends (I heard Jesus would really appreciate it)
- Pro-life bumper stickers
- Eye contact
- Chocolate flavored prophylactics
Asking to speak with your manager immediately
- Taking all your self-loathing and personal frustrations out on the Kardashian/West family
- Thinking about the country of Africa to make you feel better about your problems
- Answering incriminating questions
- The physical limitations of gravity
- Your virginity
- ALL television (but, like, TV-television. Not computer television. that’s different.)
- Über and everything they stand for
- Instagramming my breakfast
- The Annual
- “Wonderwall” by Oasis
- Plotting revenge
- Making ‘Fetch’ happen
- Catching up on Game of Thrones before the next season
- Having earbuds in for the sole purpose of not talking to your co-workers
- Dipping triscuits in straight-up frosting
Cleaning the litter boxes
Pooping in the litter boxes
- Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Ugg boots
- My Sherpa
- My Sharona
- My Giant
- The Mayan Calendar
- Lionel Ritchie’s Greatest Hits
- Tickling bystanders
- Walking up to unsuspected people whispering “I like the way your breath smells in the morning.”
- Taking selfies of selfies
- Drinking Jack and milk