Big Brother is watching, and he wants your applause – THIS IS NOT A TEST #32 (transcript)

Published August 1, 2015 [Podcast link]

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How good and how pleasant it is for us to dwell together here in unity! Once again we meet, once again we congregate, once again you wonder why you aren’t listening to Adam Corolla or Marc Maron. But you’re not! You’re here with me, and I appreciate our little get togethers, I really do. I may have jinxed myself by saying here a few weeks ago that I never have to put any money in to my car. Last week I blew a tire and wound up just getting all four replaced. It’s better to keep things even, right? If one will go they’re probably all ready to go. That’s the way I look at it these days. Not very thrifty, but I’ve reached the point in life where I don’t give a damn about being thrifty, I just want things to work when I need them to work. Whatever that costs. In fact, don’t even tell me what it’s going to cost, here’s the American Express card. Surprise me. Anyway, that’s only the second set of tires I’ve put on it in eight years, and I’ve driven the thing more than 70,000 miles, so I think I’m still ahead of the game. I’m really ahead of the game actually, since the average Californian drives 14,000 mile a year, and I seem to be right around 8,500. The benefits of living near work I guess. Anyway, they’re small tires, they don’t cost much in the scheme of things. Though in my pre-American Express days, when I was in my mid 20s, I certainly did buy the cheapest crap retreads I could get and ran them until they were bald. But I was much more devil may care in those days. I took a rickety old Honda Civic down into Mexico on bald tires and wobbly CV joints and didn’t give it a second thought. On the way down one of the passengers in the back seat said, “Hey, are you falling asleep?” No, I said, she just drifts a little bit on the curves…

She drifts a little bit, yeah. Among other things those old civics tended to do when they were mostly used up. And that’s when I got them, when they were mostly used up. 6 or 700 dollars, that’s all I ever paid. I had two of them, the wobbly-drive-to-Mexico one was bumblebee yellow, and five or six years later I bought a white one, took it home, taped off all the chrome and glass, went to the hardware store and got six cans of Rustoleum flat black and spray painted the fucker right out on the street in front of where I was living in Venice. That Rustoleum is some good shit though, it stuck to that car for years. And I could always find it in a parking lot. There weren’t a lot of flat black Civics rolling around. Cars are just tools to me, I don’t really care what they look like. And the indestructibility of those old Civics made me a Honda fan, I guess, since that’s all I’ve driven since. Well, with the exception of an Isuzu Trooper that I bought for two grand and then put about five grand into before I left it somewhere to die. Terrible tool, that one. It was nice riding high above the traffic in that monster, but other than that, a constant pain. But enough about cars. Cars are not a thrilling topic, and they’re certainly not what you expect me to talk about. I’m not sure what you expect me to talk about, I’m just pretty sure it isn’t cars. So let’s switch gears. Get it?

Have you ever gone and sat in the audience at a TV show taping? We’re at ground zero for those things here in Los Angeles, but in 30 years I’ve never attended any show as an audience member. I’m not really a live audience kind of guy. Well wait, that’s not true, Carol and I did go to a Letterman taping when we were in New York a few years ago. It rained the entire week we were there, so we were generally pretty soggy, and when we were herded into the Letterman studio at the Ed Sullivan theater it was freezing cold. They keep it around 50 degrees in there. So I thought we were good candidates for pneumonia, but somehow we both survived. It was really no fun though, being prompted to cheer and applaud like maniacs every two minutes – “COME ON GUYS, MAKE SOME NOISE FOR DAVE!” – while icicles formed on my pants. His staff, and the audience warm up guy who spent 20 minutes more or less begging us to explode into pre-planned spontaneous exuberance, all seemed like cult members. “Dave needs to hear the applause, guys, don’t let Dave down!” Though we did get to sit right in front of Paul Shaffer’s band, sorry, I mean THE CBS ORCHESTRA, so that was pretty interesting. They had their job down to a science, and they could play anything. I guess that’s why you always see them backing up the performers at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremonies. But other than that, and just being in the Ed Sullivan theater – I mean, come on, the Beatles played there – it wasn’t exactly a wonderful night.

So yeah, I’m not really a live audience kind of guy, but I made an exception yesterday for Big Brother. Big Brother is a wondrous and fascinating thing, and I have to watch it. Along with the live feeds and the websites, Joker’s Updates, Hamsterwatch – I’m all in. I know that information will make some of you judge me harshly. Cause you to question my punk cred. I’m okay with that. I have to keep it real, right? So anyway, a couple years ago – maybe a few years ago now – I requested tickets to one of the weekly live shows, where one of the Big Brother hamsters is evicted from the habitat. Last year, which was a couple of years after my request, we got tickets. So we went and showed up and stood in line for two hours and got turned away, because the host, Julie Chen, was doing a god damned ice bucket challenge, and a lot of people wanted to see that, so the audience was full of B and C level “celebrities” and CBS toadies, so we didn’t get in. They said, “Sorry, but we’ll email you a guaranteed ticket for another live show, don’t worry.” So now, another year later, I had forgotten all about it when I got the email they’d promised, so I claimed the guaranteed tickets and we headed over to Studio City.

I know Studio City sounds like Hollywood, but it’s in the San Fernando valley, and the valley is hot in the summer. Yesterday it was 91 degrees, which usually isn’t too ridiculous, but as I may have mentioned in the past week or two it’s been unusually humid around here lately, and yesterday the humidity was 50%, which made the 91 degrees pretty awful. But since our tickets were “turnaway” tickets from a previous season, we got shoved to the front of the line, so we only had to stand there next to the concrete LA river sweating for a little more than an hour. Now I wouldn’t even talk about this because going to a TV show taping isn’t exactly a riveting subject, but bear with me. It gets better. So we waited for a little over an hour and then they walked us to the sound stage, which was about four blocks away. The stage where they do the show with the live audience is connected to the big sound stage that serves as the Big Brother “house,” and the people who are obsessed with the show have taken to calling the little live show stage “Julie’s boudoir,” in honor of the host Julie Chen. So they’ll say so-and-so was voted out and made an appearance in “Julie’s boudoir.”

Anyway, there we were in Julie’s boudoir, and it’s a tiny studio, holds about 80 people. I mentioned the guy who warmed up the audience at Letterman, and every show with a live audience has a similar guy, usually a failed stand up comedian who buddies up with the audience and encourages them to act insane when the applause light comes on. So we were listening to the warm up guy, I don’t remember his name, and he was doing his thing and suddenly he looked at me and said, “You – you’re like the angriest white man in America. Stand up, what’s your name?” I guess I didn’t look excited enough or something, but I know he’s just doing his job, and I know that every week he probably does the same shtick, singling someone out to ridicule to loosen everyone else up. But, you know, I never fault anyone for doing their job, whatever that job is, so I played along. If he wants to make me the monkey, I’ll be the monkey. But I’ll be the monkey on my terms, but I’ll do it. So I stand up, tell him my name. Michael, and he calls me “Mike,” because that’s what people do, they shorten Michael to Mike. I would never do that, but a lot of people do, and that’s fine, I was Mike for the first 20 years of my life, so what do I care.

So I tell him what I do, Communications Director, and he says, “Oh, wow, I never would have guessed that, you’ve got the ‘party in the back’ going on,” and he’s talking about my hair, because it’s pretty long. But the “party in the back” crack is usually used to describe mullets, but okay, he’s reaching, that’s fine. But when he asked “What do you do?” first I said, “What do you do?” and that got a few laughs. If you’re going to make me part of the show, I’m going to try to get some laughs. Only seems natural. But that wasn’t enough for him, so he asks where I live and when I tell him Alhambra I can see he’s probably never heard of it, because he’s searching for an insult to lob, but he can’t think of one. So he goes into this rap about how I have to amp up the excitement level and he says, “Now when I say ‘go,’ I want you to show everyone how you’re going to applaud and it’s going to be crazy and over the top, okay? Show everyone how you’re going to do it, make them proud! You ready?” I say sure, and he says, “Okay, go!” And I clap really fast for a couple of seconds and then slow down and drop my arms and clap…clap…clap…about the least enthusiastic thing I could do, and I say, “Sorry, I’m tired, man.” “He’s tired! Well you don’t have to be here if you don’t want to be.” So I said okay and started to walk away, and he said, “No, no…just wake up, and bring something to the party!” So I say, okay, whatever you want, boss. He yells “Go!” at me again, and I clap as fast as I can and plaster a huge smile on my face, like a lunatic, and look around the audience, and they probably thought, “Jesus, that guy is insane, I’m glad I’m not sitting next to him” and they were probably right.

I sat down and he immediately says, “I want to bring a few of you up on stage here for a minute,” and he picks out a guy here, a guy there, then he walks over and points and me and smiles and crooks his finger at me, like come on up, and I said, me? Cool! and I walked up on to the stage. He asks everyone where they’re from and what they do, but he’s already asked me so he skips past me and says, “Eh, not you…just kidding! Who are you here with?” So I say Carol and point her out. “How did you guys meet?” On line I say, because we did. “Oh! The communications guy, that figures. Where was your first date?” And I say, right here in Studio City. “Oh! Right here in studio City! Where did you go?” And I say, I don’t remember, because it was like 16 years ago and I have no idea, but I said, “I know there was lemonade.” Laugh number two, I was killing it I tell ya. Then he mocked me a little more about how I couldn’t remember and turned to the next guy. When he did that I put my fingers up behind his head, like grade school picture rabbit ears. Which got another laugh, because I think a lot of the people in the audience though he was kind of a creep so they enjoyed seeing him get the rabbit ears. Then the guy next to me said his job was “Email marketing,” and I yelled, “Spammer!” and warm up guy said, “Spammer?” and the email guy kind of mumbled, “Hey, you signed up for the emails…”

The chit chat went on for a minute then he picked up a t-shirt – he had about a dozen t-shirts there and had already tossed half of them into the audience – and he picked up a shirt and said, “We’re going to have a competition for this awesome Big Brother audience t-shirt, and it’s a dance competition!” And I looked at Carol and the woman sitting in the row in front of us turned to say something to her. Carol told me later that she said, “He isn’t going to dance, is he?” and Carol said, “No, he isn’t.” “Okay guys, when I say go give us your best moves, your most funky dance!” And he pointed at the guy at the end of the line and said “Go!” and the guy started dancing. They all pulled out their best moves and a couple of them hammed it up, and he got to me and said, “Go!” and I took a couple steps forward and just stood there. Then I bent my knees a couple of times. Carol and I call it baby dance, because it’s how babies dance before they have full control of their bodies. So I was baby dancing to make Carol laugh. “What’s that?!” he asked, a little annoyed, and I said, “Arthritis, man.” Then the last guy to dance leaps off the stage and pulls a girl up to dance with him, and makes a big show and then our warm up guy said he was the clear winner and faked a move to give him the t-shirt but gave it to the girl instead.

So we all sat down again and Carol was laughing hysterically at my torment. Like head in her hands laughing. Warm up guy was talking to the guy who leaped off the stage and the girl who he kind of forced into dancing with him. They didn’t know each other and were sitting in different parts of the audience. He asked if they were single and where they lived and the guy said he lived in Canada, but the girl was from Las Vegas. Then she said she was only 18 years old, and warm up guy said, “Oh, too bad, she’s only 18” and I said, “Oh, that’s okay in Canada,” and got my last laugh of the night. It was about five minutes to air so I figured I was finally off the hook. But when Julie Chen came out, warm up guy said to her, “Everyone’s excited to be here…except Mike over there.” and he pointed me out and Julie looked at me and I waved and smiled and she smiled and was probably thinking, “I can’t believe this is my job. I used to be on the news. What’s become of me?” So the show started and we clapped wildly when we were supposed to and shut up when we were supposed to. I always thought the audience sound on the show was “sweetened,” you know, like they added shrieks and whoops to it, because the audience sounds way too excited for what they’re seeing, but it isn’t sweetened. The audience really shrieks and whoops and it sounds like there are 500 people in there, which I suppose is the point.

So like I said, I figured he was finished with me, but he wasn’t. During the commercial breaks he kept babbling to keep us warmed up and he kept referring back to me, which is a very stand up comedian thing to do. Establish the gag then refer back to it for some easy laughs. But at the end he was giving away the final few t-shirts and making people tell stories about how excited they were to be there in order to get one, and when he got to the last one he said, “This one has to go over here. Where’s communications guy?” and he tossed me the shirt, which was nice because I knew Carol would like it. But when he said, “Where’s communications guy?” the woman in front of us, the one who said, “He isn’t going to dance, is he?” was mad. She yelled, “He doesn’t want it!” A t-shirt. People will elbow you in the throat and gouge your eye out for a t-shirt tossed into an audience and this audience was no different. But I got the shirt and gave it to Carol and the show went on without me from there. Well, it was over anyway, so I guess I never did quite make it off the hook.

The show itself went by quickly and it was actually pretty enjoyable, when we weren’t barking like trained seals. We got to see Jason get kicked out and do his interview, but we also got the added bonus of seeing Julia go in. No one has ever gone in through the front door right after someone has gone out. If you don’t watch the show, Julia is a twin, and she and her sister Liz were rotating in and out of the house every few days, trying to trick everyone and survive long enough so that they could both play the game. Well, they survived long enough, but everyone knew there was a twin switch happening. Mainly because it’s a gimmick they used in some previous season 10 years ago or something. But a lot of the people in the game are like super fans of the show, so they know everything about it and when someone noticed that “Liz” didn’t always act like Liz someone else immediately said, “Twin twist! Like season five!” and they all whispered about it and eventually everyone knew about it but no one openly said anything. It was pretty funny.

So we watched the whole hyper-real thing unfold, then it was over and that was that. On our way out of the show a few people said, “Hey, there’s Mike!” and said hello, and a couple of them said things like, “That was rough, man, a little good natured ribbing is okay, but that guy went too far!” I said it didn’t bother me, they probably do the same thing to someone every week. Like a tired little formula that they’ve worked up and just keep repeating. There’s no surplus of creativity on that CBS lot, I can tell you that. But then a guy came up and said, “I work in social media too, and when you called that guy a spammer I just went, yeah!” Which goes to show you, no one likes a spammer, kids. Stay away from so called “email marketing.” Live a clean life. But being the butt of the running joke during the show didn’t really bother me. I’ve stepped on to a few stages in my day, so I know how to work a room. I cut my teeth working hostile audiences, so a friendly one is nothing. And really, if you put yourself in that position, sitting in a network show audience, you have to be ready to play their game. So it was fine. But I forgot to mention, when I was up on stage for the big dance contest, warm up guy was pointing to a guy, saying, “You, you come up here!” And the guy was just stone faced and shaking his head no. Warm up guy kept at him and got the crowd to egg the guy on so he’d come up, but he just kept shaking his head no. Which was funny – to me, probably not to warm up guy.

But I know how that guy felt, because 10 or 15 years ago I would have done the same thing. Just refused. I’d have been sitting there thinking, “This is lame, this is idiotic, I’m not going to make an ass of myself.” And it is lame and idiotic. But going to sit in that audience is kind of lame and idiotic. So if you going to do that you may as well make an ass of yourself. And I guess as I’ve gotten older I don’t care if I make an ass of myself. I’m doing it all the time anyway. Without an audience. So why be a drag. Tough, admittedly I don’t put myself into a lot of situations like that because I don’t really care for a lot of things that most people find fun. But I don’t know man. If you’re in the middle of a thing, whatever the thing is, when you go with the flow it’s a little more bearable. Going with the flow of life is a little more bearable. I think I’ve talked about that before. About the elevator conversations and the typical everyday bullshit that we all engage in to avoid murdering each other. I suppose I’ve learned to deal with all of that by smiling and talking about the weather, because the alternative is just more difficult. Saying to someone, “I don’t want to talk about the god damn weather,” might feel good or feel right – and sometimes I do that – but for the most part if you play the social game people leave you alone. And I guess that’s my goal, to be left alone. And now and then, on some rare and magical occasions, going with the flow drops you into some great experiences with great people, so you’ve got to keep yourself open to that shit. That shit, ha.

Have you ever had a smoke alarm that’s chirped at you? When the battery is low most of them will start to chirp, just a little beep every minute or every 30 seconds or whatever. A really fucking loud little beep. It will drive you insane, that chirp, and you might ignore it for a while or forget to buy a battery and curse the alarm for a few days until you finally do put a battery in it. But it’s unlikely you’d let that go on for week, right? Who would, you’d want to kill yourself. Well, my neighbors, the loud family, have a chirping alarm. I can hear it when I’m standing in my bathroom. And of course when I walk out into the back yard or driveway. It chirps every 30 seconds. And it’s been chirping for over a month now. I’m not kidding. They live in there, they hear it – every 30 seconds – and they just fucking ignore it. They communicate through screams and pounding on walls and breaking doors, so they’re used to noise. I guess considering what they’re usually doing, the chirp sound like pretty music or something. And I won’t get into the construction that’s still going on over there, except to say that the framing is done for the addition to the house, and I was watching the guys work on it the other day, and as they would lean on it or hammer on it the whole room would move. The framing of the entire room, it just moves when one of them leans on it. That’s with the ceiling joists in place. I guess they figure when they get the plywood nailed on, that will shore it up. It’s really quite astounding to witness.

So how do I sound this week? Is it different? I moved the podcast “studio” out of the kitchen. I know, it’s the end of an era. The kitchen era. But I’m in the music room slash library now, which has a rug covering most of the floor and heavy curtains right in front of me here. So I’m suspecting things are going to sound a little different. To some, maybe a little more “professional.” But I enjoyed the lively room ambience in the kitchen, so I’ll miss it. But this is a better spot, and now we have a kitchen table again for the first time in seven moths, so I guess it’s a good thing. I don’t know. I don’t want to get too good at this. I don’t want to set up any unrealistic expectations or anything. Hopefully you can still hear dogs barking or the loud family screaming how much they hate each other. And I’m closer to the street now, so there are always cars to break the monotony of me going on and on and on and on. See you next time.


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