Tag Archives: Kindness


I recently returned from spending a week in a giant hotel that floated around the Caribbean. The floating hotel was filled with awesome performers, friends, fans, and employees who wanted to aggressively sell me booze every waking moment.

All of this awesomeness was because of Jonathan Coulton’s JoCoCruiseCrazy.

Everything about the cruise was great. The other performers, the attendees (they self-identify as Sea Monkeys), and all of the events both official and unofficial. Even the things that weren’t necessarily great were amusing. (The staff really did want to sell you more stuff at all times. I’m surprised they don’t have staff members with mini-bars in each individual bathroom stall. It would be efficient.)

I did a brand new show on the mainstage that went really well. It was a light comedy show about all of my flaws as a human being. Stylistically, it’s a Frankenstein’s monster made out of parts of stand-up comedy, storytelling, theater, and drinking beer with friends. I’ve done a lot of different kinds of comedy performance, but this particular beast is the kind of show I want to be doing, so the warm reception was very gratifying. Hopefully, I’ll be doing more performances of the show and eventually recording it.

I also got to record an episode of my podcast Obsessed with my pals Molly Lewis, Mike Phirman, and Wil Wheaton. They were hilarious, insightful, and all-around perfect guests for the podcast, so go check out the beer and pro-tools episode and rate the hell out of the podcast on iTunes.

The kind Sea Monkeys also bought up all the copies of my book and comedy album that I brought on the boat. I performed a live riff with Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy. I played a starship simulator video game called Artemis live on stage. I danced to the mad DJ skillz of David Rees and John Hodgman. I decided Paul (of Paul and Storm) could use some interpretive dance (aka mime humping) during his rockin’ karaoke version of “Wanted Dead Or Alive.” I accidentally walked past the door to my stateroom while entirely sober and the steward pointed and laughed for a full thirty seconds. My lovely wife, Sara, did an amazing job helping the shows run smoothly backstage. Sara and I also had a nice romantic moment when we were terrified by the infamous hanging monkey towel animal.


I could go on and on about the cruise, but strangely the event that gave me the most perspective happened on the way home. (For more on the cruise itself, I suggest watching Greg Benson’s hilarious videos, reading Jonathan’s wrap up or Sea Monkey Alice’s blog post.)

The Sea Monkeys have a kind habit of applauding the performers when they enter the ship’s dining room. When Sara and I walked down the aisle of our packed plane home, two Sea Monkeys quietly, lightly applauded. We had a brief chat about accepting our transition back into the real world.

“We want to yell the thing, but we can’t,” said the Sea Monkeys. The thing was an ongoing joke to yell “SEX PARTY!” during performances. Definitely not the thing to yell on a crowded plane.

But it was a lovely moment to share. The mood on the cruise is very supportive and intense like we’re all members of a kindness cult.

Strangely, the man I sat next to on the plane turned out to actually be a member of a cult.

He was very friendly and not wearing robes or waving a dagger or anything. Let’s say his name was Ed. He was probably in his 50s, he smiled a lot, and told me he owned a feed mill in Amsterdam. He didn’t make any jokes about milling pot for animals. I didn’t either.

After the normal small talk, he told me that he had been in Orlando for a week to learn about approaching the world with kindness.

“That’s nice,” I thought. “I’ve been on a floating hotel doing a comedy/music convention that spent a lot of time celebrating kindness. Maybe I should have an open mind.”

Then he gave me a card for Avatar, the Compassion Project. I looked up Avatar. It’s been described as Scientology-Lite. It was founded by a guy who got sued by the Church of Scientology for ripping off their materials, so he went rogue. To review, this organization was formed by a man who was too morally bankrupt to be a Scientologist.

Ed told me the program had taught him to mill feed for animals in a manner that exposed rabbits to their inner happiness. I am not making this up. Ed wanted me to read a passage from his new Avatar book. It had blown his mind.

Around the same time, a child in the seat in front of us started yelling about how to spell Mickey Mouse. The child insisted that there is no “e.” That it’s spelled M-I-C-K-Y. (Much like Scottish Whisky has no e, so she must be a fan of single malt Scottish cartoon mice.) The child decided to prove she was right by repeatedly yelling “KY!”

I tried to focus on the passage in an effort to be friendly toward the smiling man who believed a bastardized version of Scientology can make bunnies reach their full potential. I was pretty sure I would think the passage was manipulative bullshit, but I might as well be friendly.

This was the greatly paraphrased gist of the passage:

Any text that spreads the message of kindness (like this one) is holy. Anyone who speaks against a holy message is a monster. Therefore, anyone who disagrees with what this book says about kindness is a horrible, evil person.

I finished reading and said, “Okay.”

Ed smiled and said, “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

The child screamed, “KY!”

“That passage changed my life,” Ed said.

“Huh,” I answered.


I decided the best form of kindness I could show Ed and myself was to not go on a rant about how awful and disturbing I found his life changing passage.

Instead, I turned and chatted with Sara for a few minutes. Ed got lost in his book again. The child still screamed “KY!” long after her parents had agreed, “Yeah, sure, that’s how you spell Mickey. Please stop screaming KY.”

A lot of the performers and the Sea Monkeys had spent a week on JoCoCruiseCrazy pushing themselves to try new things. New songs, new jokes, new games, new drinks, new people, new experiences, new and inappropriate times and places to yell “SEX PARTY!”

There was a significant amount of discussion that people felt safe to try new things during the cruise because there was an almost surreal level of support, encouragement, and kindness.

Real, simple kindness. Like, “Hey, you should try karaoke. All we ask is that you try hard and have fun and we will applaud. We won’t lie to you and tell you you’re great if you’re not, but we sure as hell won’t laugh at you or throw things.”

If there is a passage about karaoke in the Avatar books I’m sure it’s vile and manipulative stuff teaching the important lesson that ONLY AVATAR CAN SHOW YOU THE WAY TO TRUE KARAOKE AND ONLY IF YOU PAY US A LOT OF MONEY AND HARSHLY JUDGE ALL WHO QUESTION THE ONE TRUE KARAOKE.

And I have a horrible feeling that the ONE TRUE AVATAR KARAOKE SONG is probably “Free Bird.”

In short, I’m very happy to have gone to my own week long seminar on kindness. One that happened organically and honestly without an agenda. One that happened simply because people felt safe to say, “Hey, is it cool if I try something new?”

And the only response they got from the rest of the Sea Monkeys was a resounding, “Yes!”

Usually followed by a resounding “SEX PARTY!”

Thanks, friends.


Filed under Comedy Trip


In October of 2012, I helped produce a benefit show called Thirst: The No Round. The event was an evening of short plays performed in a bar. All profits went to Minnesotans United for All Families to help fight the marriage amendment that would change the state constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. (The amendment was defeated in November of 2012.) A lot of people believe marriage equality is a political issue. In my opinion, many of America’s current political issues are matters of simple human decency. This two-part monologue was my attempt to sum up some of my feelings about political activism, romantic relationships, and also Harry Potter. Enjoy.


Excuse me! Hello! May I have your attention? My apologies for interrupting your meals and drinks. I realize you don’t know me. I’m just some guy in a bar. My name is James. There. Now I’m not some guy in a bar, I’m some guy named James in a bar.

Anyway, I was wondering if you would all be willing to join me in a toast? I would like to toast the concept of kindness. If you think kindness is a good thing, please lift your glasses and on the count of three join me in a toast. One, two, three–bullshit!

Kindness is bullshit! That’s right, I said it. I used a swear word right out loud in a bar. And I will do it again if I have to.

I’m sorry to be so edgy, but I’m a little out of control right now. I’m supposed to be getting married next week and I just had a horrible fight with the woman who may or may not still be my fiancée.

We’ve been together for a few years and we’ve never had a real fight. And it was starting to make me nervous, so I said, “Hey, sweetie, before we get married, I think we should have, like, a practice fight.”

She thought that was ridiculous. When I asked her why she called me a name. A horrible name. A vile, cultural epithet.

She called me a Hufflepuff.

By a show of hands, how many people here know what a Hufflepuff is?

It sounds horrible doesn’t it? Hufflepuff. It sounds like a noise an old British man would make when he’s choking on a crumpet. Hufflepuff. Or like a really lame drug addict. Like someone who tries to get high by sniffing Play-Doh or something.

But the true meaning of Hufflepuff is even more insulting.

For those of you who don’t know, a Hufflepuff is one of the four houses at Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as featured in the Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling.

People who are in the Gryffindor house are brave. People in Ravenclaw are smart. People in Slytherin are evil. Hufflepuff is for EVERYBODY ELSE.

If Hufflepuff were real that’s where they would put the stoners and the dumb kids who try hard. Hufflepuff is the AV club of the Harry Potter world.

But the most common virtue of Hufflepuffs is that we’re supposed to be kind. Not surprisingly, there aren’t a lot of Hufflepuff characters featured in the Harry Potter story. Just Cedric Diggory. And do you know what he does? He spends about six hundred pages standing around being nice and then he dies.

That’s who my fiancée thinks I am. That’s what she thinks should go on my tombstone: “He was nice until he died.”

Do you know why that’s an insult? Because nice is a codeword for cute. When someone crinkles up their nose and says, “Oh, isn’t he nice?” what they’re actually saying is, “He reminds me of that puppy I had on my trapper keeper in seventh grade.”

Even worse, nice is a codeword for harmless.

No one respects nice people because kindness is a passive virtue. And I am done with that. I am done being a Hufflepuff. I told my fiancée that I was going to show her. I told her I was going to go out to a bar, get drunk, and go nuts in front of strangers.

Which is exactly what I have done!

Except for the drunk part. This is an O’Douls, so I’m not really drunk. But I do feel bloated and I have to pee. So, brace yourselves– because this Trapper Keeper puppy is about to urinate all over your minds!

Who wants it first?

Hey, you! Yes, you! I would like to confront you about an important, divisive issue that a lot of people feel pretty strongly about. I personally do not think that the Harry Potter films are as good as the books. What do you have to say about that?

DON’T ANSWER! I am going to tell you what I think! I think the movies are emotionless, tarted-up turds with too many special effects and not enough Dobby the House Elf.  Saying you know the story of Harry Potter because you saw the films is like saying you know about current events because you watch Fox News.

That’s right, I just attacked Fox News. Does anyone here want to defend Fox News?

Wow! No one? Okay, that makes me feel a little better.

But how about this? I think people who hang their toilet paper under-handed are sick. They’re terrible, manipulative people. I believe strongly in an over-handed toilet paper hanging approach and I’m willing to stand up and fight for what I believe in. I will stand up and fight like a Gryffindor for people’s right to hang toilet paper over-handed!

And I will tell you something else–now that I hear myself say that out loud in a bar full of strangers, I’m realizing that perhaps my issue is not with you people but rather with my fiancée. My cruel, name-calling, underhanded toilet paper hanging fiancée.

So, here’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to go use the bathroom. Then I’m going to leave an inadequate tip at the bar to prove I can be as evil as a Slytherin. Then I’m going to go home and face my issues with my fiancée head on.

But before I go, I want to leave you with a good toast. I’m sure many of you here tonight are in relationships. It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out or celebrating your 50th anniversary, relationships are hell. So, I propose a toast not to kindness, but to something I believe is really universal in all relationships. I offer a toast….to bravery!

Now, where the hell is the bathroom?


Excuse me! Excuse me! May I have your attention again? It’s me, James. You might remember me from earlier as the guy who was yelling about Harry Potter and the toilet paper.

Look, I just came back to the bar to apologize. I brought you guys a flower. It’s just one so you’ll have to share.

Feel free to pass it around or keep it for yourself depending on where your moral compass points. I’m not here to judge.

Anyway, I wanted to say I’m sorry for freaking out and yelling at you earlier. Also, I figure you guys have a right to know what happened when I confronted my fiancée.

So, I went home to yell at her about being so cruel as to call me nice. When I got home, she was sitting on the couch watching a movie. She was crying and eating ice cream out of a tub with a soup ladle because she couldn’t find any clean spoons.

And I was really angry. I was riled up from all that O’Douls I slammed and the movie she was watching was Prisoner of Azkaban—which is the worst Harry Potter film because they don’t even tell you why Harry’s patronus is a stag. And you just have to infer who Padfoot, Prongs, Wormtail, and Moony are, and the Whomping Willow just moves locations. It’s so stupid!

I wanted to just scream and smash the TV, but I didn’t.

I went full Hufflepuff.

I sat down and I hugged her. I made the active choice to be kind. And I realized I’m not sick of being nice, I’m sick of the world acting like being nice doesn’t make a difference.

So, excuse my language, but dammit all to hell I am going to be kind. I am going to be actively, almost aggressively kind.

For example, on the way here, I tried to do as many kind things as I possibly could. I bought you guys the flower, I picked up some litter, I helped an old lady cross the street.

Technically, I tried to help an old lady cross the street. She was moving really slow so I came up from behind and took her arm and she hit me with her cane and blew this whistle she was wearing around her neck.

But! I apologized and clarified what I was trying to do. And she said thanks and gave me a piece of butterscotch candy. The kind of candy that I think just naturally grows in the purses of old women.

Anyway, I’m not here to stereotype people. I’m here to celebrate. Because I don’t want to spend my life being angry about what makes us different, I want to make the choice to celebrate the things that unite us.

Whether it’s over-handed or under-handed, we all use toilet paper. Whether you like the movies or the books, we all like Harry Potter. I accept that there are some people who just plain don’t like Harry Potter. Probably the same kind of people who like Fox News. But that’s not the point.

The point is—I would like to offer a toast. May I borrow someone’s drink? Thank you. Is there alcohol in this? Whatever, it doesn’t matter, I’ll deal.

Earlier tonight, I toasted the concept of kindness with sarcasm. Now, I would like to offer a sincere toast to all that kindness entails—empathy, understanding, love, and just general Hufflepuffery.

After all, what is the point of bravery if it’s not coming from a place of kindness? And so, you nice strangers in a bar, I offer a toast to the power of kindness. Cheers!

Now, I have to get home to my fiancee before she starts watching that piece of crap movie about dragons and formal dances that the producers have the audacity to call Goblet of Fire.

Thank you all and goodnight!

Thank you for reading. If you enjoy my writing, check out other stories like this in my book Comedy of Doom.


Filed under Comedy Story