A Dog’s Commencement Speech for 2020 College Graduates

Congrats to all the 2020 graduates! 

Remember the words of advice from Charlie‘s the Golden Retriever’s commencement speech: 

“Fellow graduates, here are ten kibbles of advice for success and happiness that I have learned in my five years of pawing around this earth:

1: Although life can be ruff, the pack of friends you keep in your den will make the journey most enjoyable.

2: Wake up hungry. Wake up early. Even if it bothers the others in your den.

3: Take daily walks to clear your mind and your bowels, but also to explore new places. 

4: It’s okay to smell new things, but you don’t have to consume *every* new smell that drifts your way. Everybody wants a piece of your play time, but it’s up to you to have the will power to ignore/leave it, or sniff quick and move on to maintain focus on your goals. 

5: Wear your collar with pride and remember who you are. In fact, have multiple collars. 

6: A leash is a good thing—the restraint will keep you out of trouble. Embrace the safe times when you’re off-leash.

7: Sugar is not good for you. Avoid it at all costs. 

8: Never beg for what you want. Earn what you want.

9: Gratitude is everything. Gratitude doesn’t always have to be wet and slobbery—even a smile or a light nuzzle is enough to say ‘thank you.’

10: A tennis ball is the simplest of things. And if simple things can make you thrilled, your life will be thrilling.”

Live Review: Rage Against the Machine Members Joined By Chuck D and B-Real for “Prophets of Rage” Show in L.A.

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA—This year’s messy, divisive presidential election has a silver lining: Rage Against the Machine has reunited—sort of.

At 7:05 AM on the Tuesday after Memorial Day, RATM’s Tom Morello, Brad Wilk, and Tim Commerford were joined by Chuck D and B-Real on KROQ. Together, the supergroup announced that they would be performing a surprise inaugural show in the evening at the Whisky A Go Go under the band name Prophets of Rage.

It was simple: one admission wristband per person, and the cost would be what Morello called “the people’s price: $20.” All of the proceeds would benefit the charity P.A.T.H.—People Assisting the Homeless.  One more rule: no cell phones.

Prophets of Rage - Rage Against the Machine Reunion - Chuck D - B-Real - Cypress Hill - Public Enemy

Photo by Brian Fishbach

Morello said the main reason they are getting together is because “both the country and the world are on the brink of the abyss, and we thought it was wholly irresponsible for us to be sitting on the sidelines.”

By 9:05 PM, original members of Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy, and Cypress Hill were on stage together starting what they called “a musical revolution.”

The details of the revolution are still to be determined. But tonight, it involved twenty-one loud emotional songs spanning the careers of RATM, Public Enemy, and Cypress Hill.

Yes, original RATM frontman Zack de la Rocha was absent. But Chuck D and B-Real are deserving stand-ins. And they fit right in with three returning RATM guys.

In short, Prophets of Rage sounded amazing. They have been quietly rehearsing together nearly a month. Every move, every lyric and all the energy sounded explosive, in sync, and literally full of rage.

The night started with DJ Lord, who warmed up the crowd for ten minutes. The DJ set culminated with a remix of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the song to which the Prophets of Rage would first take the stage. Wilk sat at the drums, Morello grabbed a guitar that read “arm the homeless,” and Commerford, with his heavily tattooed biceps, picked up a bass.

The crowd of no more than 500 people were astonished at what they were looking at: a 75% RATM reunion. They were then hit with Chuck D and B-Real, both ready to blow the roof off the Whisky.

They opened with the group’s eponymous song, “Prophets of Rage,” a Public Enemy track from 1988.

Prophets ripped through two more RATM hits, “Guerilla Radio” and “Bombtrack” before playing the next Public Enemy tune, “My Uzi Weighs a Ton.”

The first part of the set would alternate a few more times, with RATM’s “People of the Sun” and “Take the Power Back.” Just before “Testify,” B-Real led the band through the 2000 Cypress Hill hit, “Rock Superstar.”

During that song, Commerford squinted at Morello who then gave a nod from across the stage. It seemed like a “just making sure we’re together” look. It was the kind  of non-verbal gesture that band mates who have been playing together for over 25 years would give to each other while just playing a cover for fun.

At one point, B-Real revealed that this concert was Chuck D’s first performance ever at the Whiskey on Sunset.

The next part of the set began as the RATM guys left the stage. Chuck D and B-Real then alternated singing each other’s hits, including “Bring the Noise” and “Insane in the Brain.” The entire time, Morello was taking a breather by the guitar tech, drinking a bottle of water, but bouncing and ferociously, one arm in the air, singing along.

Morello, Commerford, and Wilk jumped back in, ready to slay a few more RATM songs together on stage for the first time in nearly five years.

The last third of the setlist was marked by mostly RATM hits, beginning with “Sleep Now in the Fire.” After playing “Know Your Enemy,” B-Real mentoined Donald Trump, and the crowd booed in agreement.

It was evident that a big reason that Prophets of Rage got together is because of the rise of Trump. Morello even wore a red hat throughout the evening that read “Make America Rage Again,” a swift jab at Trump’s campaign slogan and goofy red hat.

Tom Morello Hat 2016 Donald Trump Parody

Photo by Brian Fishbach

Eventually, they played a mashup of the Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” with the Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep Till Brooklyn.” The lyrics were changed, however to “No Sleep Till Cleveland,” a reference to the location of the Republican National Convention this summer.

That mashup ended with a brief jam that had some echos of Audioslave’s “Like a Stone”. Morello showcased how he can play a solo with his teeth.

Chuck D took a moment to acknowledge the elephant in the room: de la Rocha’s absence.

“We’re Prophets of Rage, but there’s always a seat warm for Zach de la Rocha,” he shouted.

B-Real continued, explaining the group’s mission: “We want y’all to know, we definitely, man, salute our brother [de la Rocha] right here, his words are needed right now. Well we decided to be the fuckin’ megaphone to shout in your fucking ear! Right now! You ready for that? You still standing strong?”

Wilk tapped the snare once and they started playing “Bulls on Parade.” B-Real reiterated one last time, “let’s make America rage again!” And the night ended the way RATM usually ended a show, with “Killing in the Name.” B-Real changed the lyrics, as de la Rocha usually did, to “some of those that burn crosses, are the same up in Congress.”

Prophets of Rage, along with DJ Lord took a bow. When the house lights turned on, fans ripped Shepard Fairey-designed posters from the walls. Fairey watched pleased from the balcony.

As the presidential election dialogue and demonstration literally rages on, the Prophets of Rage sound determined to spread their message of unrest and make a dent in it all. But until then, they will be playing another show at the Hollywood Palladium on June 3.

Rage Against the Machine Setlist 2016 Prophets of Rage Set List Whisky A Go Go

Photo by Brian Fishbach

Prophets of Rage (Public Enemy)
Guerilla Radio (RATM)
Bombtrack (RATM)
My Uzi Weighs a Ton (Public Enemy)
People of the Sun (RATM)
Take the Power Back (RATM)
Rock Superstar (Cypress Hill)
Testify (RATM)

(Morello, Wilk, Commerford exit)

Hands on the Pump (Cypress Hill)
Can’t Truss It (Public Enemy)
Insane in the Brain (Cypress Hill)
Bring the Noise (Public Enemy)
Ain’t Goin Out (Cypress Hill)
Terrordome (Cypress Hill)

(Morello, Wilk, Commerford return)

Sleep Now in the Fire (RATM)
Shut Em Down (Public Enemy)
Know Your Enemy (RATM)
Party’s Over (RATM)
No Sleep Till Cleveland / Fight the Power (Public Enemy)
Bulls on Parade (RATM)
Killing in the Name (RATM)

Brian Fishbach is a Music Journalist based in Los Angeles. Follow Brian on Twitter @BrianFishbach

Guns N’ Roses Got Back Together ‘In This Lifetime’

Guns N’ Roses finally played a rock show again. And fans say it all lived up to the hype that has been building since the summer of 1993. Axl Rose, Slash, and Duff McKagan are officially back in the same band.

Friday night at the Troubador in Los Angeles, Guns N’ Roses played an intimate surprise concert. It had only been announced mere hours prior. A limited number of tickets (around 250) went on sale for only $10, setting off a massive line of would-be concert-goers at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Horne Avenue by 10:00 AM.

By the evening, the excitement had been brewing all day.

Even as late as 11:00 PM, some fans congregating outside the Troubador speculated that this could be some elaborate April Fools prank. And if it was, the thirty or so sheriff’s deputies on hand would have had a long night of thwarting riots.

But all signs were proving that this was no hoax. Literally:


Photo by Brian Fishbach

Under a marquee sign that read “GUNS N ROSES, NOT IN THIS LIFETIME,” hundreds of envious fans gathered outside the Troubador in black leather, red bandanas, and GNR concert shirts. A few lamented that they shelled out as much as $1,000 to buy scalped admission wristbands, only to find out they were scammed. Real fans that obtained the scarce wristbands knew they could not put a price on rock music history.

Before the show, a few A-list celebrities dined at the next door Italian restaurant, Dan Tana’s. Spotted among them were Bradley Cooper and his mother Gloria, David Arquette, Chris Brown, and Jim Carrey. Others inside the Troubador included Nicholas Cage, Andrew Dice Clay, Lana Del Ray, Colin Hanks, Kate Hudson, and Lenny Kravitz.

Bradley Cooper arriving at the Guns N' Roses reunion show in West Hollywood. April 1, 2016

Photo by Brian Fishbach

The West Hollywood concert venue only has a capacity of 500. But in a few days, Guns N’ Roses will be entertaining entire football stadiums, and even headlining Coachella. Face-value for some of the best seats is in the ballpark of $500.

As lucky fans and VIP guests made their way into the Troubador, they were instructed to tuck their phones into green pouches that lock shut. The pouches, made by tech company Yondr, thwart fans from polluting the concert with endless smartphone picture-takers and annoying amateur videographers. Comedians Dave Chapelle and Louie CK have required their audiences to use the Yondr pouches at their recent shows as well. It also keeps the bootleg audio of their newest jokes off the internet.

But the no-phones rule didn’t stop a few fans from snapping some photos from the inside. The first photo of Axl on stage posted to Instagram just after midnight.

axl troubador 2016

Photo by Instagram users kunkfu33 and ali_shayesteh_management

Guns N’ Roses opened with “It’s So Easy,” and tore through a thorough setlist that included radio hits “Mr. Brownstone,” “Welcome to the Jungle,” and “Sweet Child O’Mine.” They didn’t have time for the nine-minute ballad, “November Rain.” But it all built up to an encore that closed the night with “Paradise City.”

Like any ordinary concert, fans scooped-up paper setlists and Slash’s guitar picks. One fan even caught a whistle that Axl threw into the crowd.

All of the grateful attendees were issued a souvenir black ticket (since their prized admission ticket had only been a wristband.) It was clearly an homage to their humble roots in the 1980s Los Angeles glam-rock scene, blended with a modern-day hashtag, #GnFnR. The ticket read,


DATE: Fri. April 1st

TIME: Sometime After 11 PM


This was no ordinary concert. Guns N’ Roses are back. And now they are all warmed up to go on their first tour together in over twenty years.

guns n roses ticket troubador 2016

Photo by Instagram user paulhebertphoto

guns n roses setlist 2016 troubador

Photo by Instagram user damipantaleone

Pennywise Packs Hollywood Palladium for Three-Straight Nights of Full Album Setlists

Photo credit: Pennywisdom.com

Photo credit: Pennywisdom.com

Pennywise has a lot going well for them. They have pumped out an album almost every three years since 1988. They all still live with families where they grew up—the South Bay of Los Angeles. And the fans still show enough support to fill the Hollywood Palladium for three-straight nights.

Not only that, the punk rockers played a different album from beginning to end each of those nights. On Thursday, the self-titled album (1991). Friday, Unknown Road (1993). And on Saturday night, About Time (1995).

And even though all four members are either nearing or eclipsed age fifty, you could not tell unless you looked it up on Wikipedia.

Through all their years together, Pennywise’s onstage energy hasn’t waned a bit. And that’s expected out of a band that has had minimal (yet notable) lineup changes. And to understand those lineup changes is to understand Pennywise’s temperament.

In 1996, Pennywise lost their bassist Jason Thirsk to suicide. Lead singer Jim Lindberg, guitarist Fletcher Dragge, drummer Byron McMackin, and current bassist Randy Bradbury make sure to remind the crowd at every single show of Jason’s memory. Their last song ever since losing Jason has been a tribute song to him, “Bro Hymn.” One pre-chorus lyric reads, “brotherhood’s our rule we cannot bend.” The song is most notable for its passionate chanting chorus that directly mimics the repeating guitar riff. And the fans love to shout along.

It is almost as if every show that they do is dedicated to their dearly departed bandmate.

For a brief time from 2009 through 2012, lead singer Jim Lindberg left the band. Pennywise trucked on without him and released an album with replacement singer Zoli Teglas. And in 2012, when Teglas had an injury, Jim returned.

The gratefulness that these guys have for sticking together showed in every single second of every song at their three-night Palladium residency.

On night two, the crowd was already stuffed to capacity by time opening band H20 hit the stage. Outside the weed-haloed concert hall, a merchandise line easily fifty fans deep stretched down the concessions hallway. The shirts that have sold out the fastest are Pennywise parodies of Los Angeles-area sports logos: a black Kings-Pennywise mashup, a white Lakers-Pennywise girl shirt, and a blue Dodgers-Pennywise baseball tee.

A young fan boasts that his entire family drove up from San Diego just for the show.

By the time the lights dimmed, the nearly 4,000 fans were ready. Over the speakers, a piano riff of “Bro Hymn” built the anticipation. That happens to be just how the album Unknown Road begins. And then six-foot five-inch guitarist Dragge ripped a power chord as the spotlight hit Lindberg.

“Hello we are Pennywise!” Lindberg shouts into the microphone. Shirts and beers are launched into the air by fans ready to mosh. And from there, the energy didn’t stop until the house lights came on.

After moving the crowd for the first two songs, Dragge asked the them, “how many weed smokers are out there?” The crowd roars and flickers of lighters speckle. “How many vape smokers out there?” Dragge asked the crowd again. This time they “boo.” Typical questions coming from a guitarist with a beer-holder on his mic stand.

More items are tossed in the air as the mosh pit keeps spinning ravenously. Twice, Lindberg announces to the crowd that he found a wallet on stage.

And then a few words of homage. Lindberg admits that twenty-five years ago, the first time Pennywise played their hometown’s Palladium was in support of the album Unknown Road. After playing the song “Tester,” he shouts, “we haven’t played that live in 20 years.”

As the first set ends, Lindberg makes a pact with the crowd: “If you keep coming, we’ll keep coming, is that a fucking deal, LA? How about next year, we do the Full Circle album?”

The second set of the night begins immediately following the end of Unknown Road. They are playing the song “Something to Change,” but poor Lindberg minces the lyrics with another song. Not too surprising, as so many of the four-chord punk songs bear a beautiful resemblance to one another. Dragge chastises Lindberg, “we’re not supposed to stop when we fuck up! We broke that rule!”

A few songs later, they begin playing one of their more mainstream hits, “Fuck Authority.” The mosh pit looks more violent than ever. And floating around on top of the pit is a 31-year-old, five-foot three-inch woman from Pasadena named Devin Bell. She is attending all three concerts. She is handling the crowd surfing with a yoga-like cadence. She also got a Pennywise logo tattooed on her torso in December.

“It was so much fun,” Bell explains as she recalls sitting on a guy’s shoulders as he ran around the circle pit. “I want to engage with people, so when I’m singing and sitting on a guy’s shoulders, I want people to feel the energy that I’m feeling. I’m motivated by the music.”

A special guest is then welcomed to the stage: former Bad Religion and Circle Jerks guitarist Greg Hetson. Dragge towers over him as they team up to play a cover of Bad Religion’s “Do What You Want.”

As the energy is reaching an apex, Bradbury starts picking the bass riff to “Bro Hymn.” The crowd knows that this is it. After the first chorus, Pennywise is joined on stage by family and friends. Lindberg gives one of his daughters a high five. He is clearly a family man. And it was even more evident in his 2007 book, Punk Rock Dad.

“Bro Hymn” ends, the lights come up, the energy dissipates, and Pennywise exits.

As most of the crowd dispersed, some sweaty exhausted fans congregated up front to snag the band’s discarded guitar picks, drumsticks, and setlists from the roadie crew. One fan received not a setlist, but a printout of selected lyrics to some lesser-played Unknown Road songs. Maybe Lindberg did seem a little bit in his fifties.

Nobody seemed to notice. The guys of Pennywise seem no older than the twenty-three year-old album they just rocked.

BRIAN FISHBACH is a music journalist based in Los Angeles.

You can find his stories about rockstars at www.BrianFishbach.com

The Burden of Swapping Musical Partners

Polyamory—the act of mutually swapping lovers, is generally perceived as taboo. Monogamy—being exclusive to a lover is publicly accepted as the norm.

This isn’t just true for romantic relationships, it’s a fact of life. At work, a successful worker can be chided for leaving to pursue something less lucrative yet more fun. In sports, an athlete can leave a town where they have devoted fans and join a team that will pay them more in another town—and then those fans excoriate them.

Change is inevitable. Feelings can evolve. Passion can dwindle. But stubbornness is a gateway to misery.

In music, bands have members depart, and styles that change over time. Usually, loud fans hate it. They treat the new member like a step-dad who hasn’t earned their spot in the family (or never will.)

This week, it was announced that Orange County rock group No Doubt would be moving on for a while without their blonde edgy front woman, Gwen Stefani. But it’s not like they are just replacing her with their guitar tech. Her bandmates are instead just collaborating with the wailing frontman of punk band AFI, Davey Havok.

And right away, there was backlash from fans of both No Doubt and AFI.

Fans don’t have to embrace whatever tunes No Doubt-Minus-Gwen-Plus-Davey produce. But they should respect that their favorite artists are still out there finding new ways to be creative, expressive, and entertaining.

There are purists that will never be happy with anything beyond the first album that brought them to love a particular band. Many fans go to the concert and sing hard for the old throwback breakout hits. And then they openly scoff at anything that was made since the last presidential election.

Another band that recently had a controversial line-up change was Blink 182. Guitarist Tom Delonge is currently taking indefinite time to write fantasy and supernatural books. He always had an obsession with aliens (hence the song, “Aliens Exist” on their breakthrough album Enema of the State). And now Tom has the time to explore another passion outside of punk rock. After all, he turned 40 last year. That’s over twenty-two years of doing the same job.

The ensuing public fallout between Delonge and the other Blink 182 members fractured Tom from many fans. Eventually, drummer Travis Barker and bassist Mark Hoppus took in Alkaline Trio guitarist Matt Skiba to replace Delonge. They toured. Fans sang, fans cheered. They are even recording an album together. But plenty of fans of both bands continue to Tweet and pout with their arms crossed, as if the music that brought them into fandom has somehow changed.

It hasn’t. The old music will sound exactly the same. And the new music will at least be interesting.

In the last 30 years, plenty of rock bands have had controversial lineup switches. After the outrage calmed down, they all kept on keeping on.

In 1995, following the departure of guitarist John Frusciante, the Red Hot Chili Peppers joined forces with Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro. The sole album they produced, One Hot Minute, still gets airtime on the radio today. Frusciante eventually returned to the band in 1999 before leaving for good a decade later.

In 2000, Rage Against the Machine parted ways with singer Zach de La Rocha. The following year, the remaining three members formed a group called Audioslave with Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell. They toured the world and released an album together. Eventually, both singers went back to their respective bands.

Journey, the band that sang “Don’t Stop Believin’” replaced singer Steve Perry in 1998 with another singer named Steve—Steve Augeri. Eventually, Journey permanently replaced Augeri in 2007 with Arnel Pineda, a Filipino singer from a Journey cover band.

Some bands don’t even have the option of having a reunion after parting with members.

At the 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Nirvana was to be enshrined. Their lead singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain committed suicide 20 years prior, yet the band was slated to play some of their hits. So to help play their most famous song, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic recruited Joan Jett to sing the vocals. The woman who is famous for singing “I Love Rock and Roll” proved that she indeed does. And anyone who also loves rock and roll should at the very least appreciate that epic collaboration and tribute.

While it is perfectly normal to not be thrilled by the new music by an evolving band, it is unreasonable to chide artists for veering off the path that has trained their original fans to love their art. The old material is still very much there.

But is an inevitable burden of the artist whose art evolves to face criticism for swinging with new band mates. And the fans that made them successful in the first place should relax and give the old music a listen if the thought of them cheating on their old band mates repulses them so much.

BRIAN FISHBACH is a music journalist based in Los Angeles.  You can find his stories about rockstars at www.BrianFishbach.com

Red Hot Chili Peppers Rock Out at Fundraiser for Bernie Sanders

Red Hot chili Peppers fundraiser for bernie sanders los angeles ace hotel

LOS ANGELES — The Red Hot Chili Peppers showed just how much they “feel the Bern” last night.

The SoCal rockers played an energetic concert at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles as a fundraiser for presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders.

Every time Anthony Keidis or Flea mentioned Senator Sanders, the beyond-capacity crowd of over 1,600 went into a frenzy—all while the man of the night was 2,700 miles away, campaigning in New Hampshire.

bernie sanders red hot chili peppers

It had all the trimmings of a typical campaign event: rows and rows of “Bernie 2016” signs, and volunteers armed with clipboards selling shirts, hats, and stickers.

Shepard Fairey, the artist behind the Obama “Hope” poster, designed the poster for the event and was in attendance as well.

The price of admission was bound to have generated a modest boost in funds for Senator Sanders. Although tickets prices started at $40, they soared up to $2,000 for a front-row seat and a meet-and-greet with the Chili Peppers. Undoubtedly, many volunteers and fans received comped tickets

The Grammy Award-winning group offered to do more, but Senator Sanders stood by his anti-large donation pledge.

“We offered to pay for the rent for the hotel and Bernie would not accept,” Keidis explained in a radio interview on KLOS.  “[Bernie] said ‘no I can’t take your money, that’s not how I work, I’m not taking those size contributions from groups, corporations, anything at all.’”

As the house lights dimmed to start the show, a two-minute taped video featured Senator Sanders thanking the crowd and the band for their support. From there, the band launched into a 12-song set-list that began with “Can’t Stop.”

Keidis then told the crowd that he’s supporting Bernie because he’s the “cutest candidate,” among other reasons. Sanders already has the endorsement of a plethora entertainers.

Then all four Chili Peppers adorned “Bernie 2016” hats, took a group photo, and bounced into their 1999 hit song, “Around the World.”

Sanders wasn’t the only one getting support from the Chili Peppers. They played homage to their recently departed idol and friend, David Bowie, with a cover of the song “Cracked Actor.”

And at center stage throughout the night, Chad Smith’s drum set featured a basshead with Bowie’s face.

david bowie drum set bass chad smithbernie sanders red hot chili peppers

BRIAN FISHBACH is a music journalist based in Los Angeles. Brian previously worked as a staffer in the U.S. Senate. You can find his stories about rockstars at www.BrianFishbach.com


It Is Never Too Early to Change the Early Presidential Primaries

Iowa? New Hampshire? Every four years, our next President panders to these tiny states. And that needs to change.

Five years ago, the only mention of the year 2016 was in reference to the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, and a distant United States Presidential Election.

Granted, between then and now, there would be one more Summer Olympic Games (London), and one more Presidential Election (Obama vs. Romney).

And now, with three years and eleven months until the roaring 2020s, it is time to reimagine the process of early presidential primaries and caucuses in the United States.

Both sides of the generalized American political spectrum have plenty to dislike about the early primary system: the left can lament that the current system gave us George W. Bush, and the right can complain that the system gave us eight years of President Obama. Everyone should listen up.

For decades, the first primary in an election year has been in Iowa. And it is not just any primary, it is a caucus—where gaggles of fickle meandering voters jockey from one corner of of a church mess hall to the other, until their precinct declares a candidate a winner. In recent years, Obama, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum were victorious.

Up next, New Hampshire is the site of the second primary election. In 2012, Mitt Romney edged out Ron Paul. In 2008, Hillary Clinton famously “found [her] voice” and avenged her third place Iowa finish with a first place in The Granite State.

The total populations of Iowa and New Hampshire make up only 1.3% of the entire United States. Those 1.3% hog all of the television advertisements, town hall events, and international media for months leading up to their respective primaries. Those 1.3% are the target for the hundreds of millions of campaign donations from around the country. And even if half of the people in each state were eligible to vote and do so, that would only be .65% of the country making a big decision for the rest of us. That .65% is what dictates how the nation should feel about the candidates for two to four weeks—when Super Tuesday takes place.

Super Tuesday is arguably the end of the early primaries for U.S. Presidential elections. In the last open election in 2008, republicans and democrats each had primaries in over twenty states on that day (there was a Super Tuesday II a month later, but it only had 4 states.)

The point is that by March of an election year—eight months before the general election day in November—each party’s candidates are winnowed down to one or two, with roughly half the country still not casting any vote on the matter.

Only a few wonks understand this. Only a few diligent citizens register to vote. And fewer of them are actually casting a vote.

That is a problem. That needs to change. And here is an idea:

You divide the states into five population tiers, per the 2010 census:

Division 1: California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, and Michigan.

Division 2: New Jersey, Virginia, Washington, Arizona, Massachusetts, Indiana, Tennessee, Missouri, Maryland, and Wisconsin.

Division 3: Minnesota, Colorado, South carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, Kentucky, Oregon, Oklahoma, Connecticut, and Iowa.

Division 4: Utah, Mississippi, Arkansas, Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico, Nebraska, West Virginia, Idaho, and Hawaii.

Division 5: New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, Montana, Delaware, South Dakota, North Dakota, Alaska, DC, Vermont, and Wyoming.

Americans love divisions. It reminds them of the National Football League and NCAA sports.

Next, you have ten primary elections between March and July—two per month, five states per day.

But who gets to be on each primary election? By December 31, each state needs to submit voter registration totals to the Federal Elections Commission. The states are then ranked in their divisions from greatest to least percentage of eligible voters registered to vote.

The states that can get the largest percentage of voter registration will get to be on the first presidential primary election of the season in March. For example, based on the 2012 voter turnout, this is what the first primary election would look like in 2016: Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Idaho, and New Hampshire. Sorry, Iowa.

It is a system that rewards the states that register the most voters with the most attention, and the most candidates on the ballot. And the schedule will be made just before kickoff of the Super Bowl in early February—for maximum viewer exposure.

And that brings us back to what we can learn from the Olympics. The finalists for each Olympic games are selected by a committee. No, we are not advocating for a slating committee to choose the President. When the committee convenes about seven years before when the games are to take place, the committee casts an initial vote. The city with the lowest vote total drops off. And so on until a winner is selected.

This would work in the primary election system. It’s a “try not to get last place” system. But on the tenth primary in July, if there are still a ton of candidates left, the winner wins the party’s nomination.

The last thing that should change is the day when these ten primary elections will be held. Two per month, for five months. Each one on a Friday AND Saturday. Nobody gets anything done on Fridays anyways. This will maximize turnout.

The system of early primaries in the U.S. Presidential elections need to change. And the time to change them is now. Time is running out to change them for 2020.

America, we can do better. Even the Olympics are already making plans for 2024.

BRIAN FISHBACH is a music journalist based in Los Angeles.  He is also a former U.S. Senate staffer. You can find his stories about rockstars at www.BrianFishbach.com

The Master of Reuniting 1990s Teen Film Casts

There is a film enthusiast in Los Angeles who is becoming the go-to-guy for wrangling and hosting 1990s film cast reunions: 24-year-old Kory Davis.

The grinning, self-declared “Movie Dude” has spent the past year commiserating with his favorite late-twentieth-century film actors and producers to the delight of almost a dozen sold-out screenings at classic movie theaters around Los Angeles.

In just the past year, Davis has hosted screenings and interviewed members of the casts of the American Pie series, the Harold & Kumar series, Mortal Kombat, The Power Rangers Movie, Bride of Chucky, Jawbreaker, The Wizard, Empire Records, The Girl Next Door, and 10 Things I Hate About You.  

But unlike most interviewers who ask open-ended questions to bored Hollywood stars, Davis is apt to insert his own commentary during his Q & A sessions. The actors sitting with him on wooden stools at the front of the packed theaters are always visibly amused by Davis’ verbose, unfiltered comments and curious questions.

“Alot of moderators ask very generic questions,” Davis explains. “I want to know how many times did Jason Biggs f–k the pie. How does the director even direct that?”

Photo by Antonio E. Pedreira

Kory Davis leading a discussion with the cast of Harold & Kumar on the film’s 10th anniversary. Photo by Antonio E. Pedreira.

As Davis put the 10 Things I Hate About You reunion together last November, actor David Krumholtz flattered Davis’ abilities, saying that in order to coax Joseph Gordon-Levitt to attend, he plead, ‘this kid is awesome, he’s not just a studio moderator.”  Joe did indeed show up to the midnight reunion and screening at Santa Monica’s Nuart Theater. Joe even stayed until his movie ended at half past 2:00 AM.

Growing Up in the Projection Room

One of Davis’ advantages is that he was as young as five years-old when he first saw some of the movies he screens. That’s a benefit of having an older brother and sister cool enough to show you PG-13 and R-rated movies. In fact, Davis spent his formative years watching teen comedies and horror films in the projection room of movie theaters in Louisiana.

By 2000, after seeing I Know What You Did Last Summer, She’s All That, Boys and Girls, and Down to You, the ten-year-old Davis was thoroughly inspired by the poise of the various characters played by Freddie Prinze, Jr.

Davis was so moved that he penned a three-page hand-written letter to the actor detailing how Prinze’s roles make him feel better about his struggles in middle school. Davis admits, “it was a sad, tragic letter,” and even more-so that Prinze never responded.

Still, much like the endings in his favorite 1990s films, Davis’ solitude in the projection room with just a 35MM roll by his side, his struggles eventually turned into a something great: a career.

During college, Davis interned at William Morris Endeavor doing story development. And sixteen years after first seeing Last Summer, Davis not only received a film degree from Columbia College, but was handed the degree at graduation by none other than the film’s star, Jennifer Love-Hewitt.

American Pie and Beyond

Only a year out of college, Davis crossed paths with Jon Hurwitz, the co-writer-director of the fourth installation of the American Pie series, as well as the co-creator of the Harold & Kumar series. Davis presented himself as the number-one fan of the American Pie series, and Hurwitz took him up on the idea to reunite the cast for the film’s 15th anniversary in the summer of 2014.

Clad in a shirt featuring a pie with a hole in it, Davis hosted an immaculate question and crude commentary session at the New Beverly Cinema. He was easily the youngest person in front of the crowd, with Jason Biggs, Tara Reid, John Cho, and Eddie Kaye Thomas all at least 10 years his senior.

“It was great, many of these actors know they have had successful careers because of these movies, so let’s celebrate it,” Davis describes the evening.

And celebrate they did. At one point, Davis voiced into the microphone his preferences, ranking the second American Pie film as “the funniest”. Then, Davis chastised the plot and love interest of the third film. The reunited cast members shot themselves a “did he just say that” look. But they knew, this was coming from a fan who still loves the film as much as he did when he first saw it at age 9.

Davis’ success at reuniting and interviewing 1990s film casts has earned him much acclaim from his subjects. Hurwitz recently posted his praise of the Movie Dude on Facebook: “Davis is the awesome young man who put together the amazing Harold & Kumar and American Pie anniversary screenings at the New Beverly last year. Since then, he’s gone on a tear, hosting events for his favorite movies all across LA. His Q & A’s are hilarious and unique, because you’re watching a genuinely obsessed movie fan mixing it up with his heroes unfiltered.”

The success is not stopping there.  Davis is about to become a touring interviewer for an upcoming Power Rangers reboot, featuring trips to Texas and even to London.

But before then, Davis has even more 1990s cinematic glory to celebrate in the coming weeks:

On Friday, March 20, Davis will be hosting a screening of I Know What You Did Last Summer and The Faculty. Cast attendees are yet to be announced, but the event will also be Davis’ 25th birthday.

On Friday, March 27, Davis will be hosting 15th anniversary screening of Coyote Ugly.

And on April 17, Davis will be hosting a reunion for the 1998 high school party bash film, Can’t Hardly Wait—and the films’ fans are eager to find out if the starring actress who handed Davis his college diploma will be in attendance. Either way, it is sure to be another fantastic night of 1990s teen comedy nostalgia.

To stay in the loop, follow Davis on Twitter: @Moviedude18

George Carlin’s Daughter Brings Dad Back to Life in Stage Show

Photo by Sherry Greczmiel

Photo by Sherry Greczmiel

It has been almost seven years since comedian George Carlin died at age 71.

Throughout his illustrious career, he was a Hippy-Dippy Weatherman, he got arrested for wrangling the Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television, he questioned the Government, and lampooned organized religion.

For over 50 years, Carlin toured the world sharing his meticulously-rehearsed comedy with devoted audiences. And while these worshipful fans of today get satisfaction out of just thinking of the man’s quotes, his only child, Kelly Carlin, still recalls him as “Dad”.

So what was it like having one of the twentieth century’s greatest entertainers for a father?

Kelly Carlin has one weekend left of her one-month residency of her one-person Broadway-caliber show about growing up with George as Dad, and mother Brenda.

The show, titled A Carlin Home Companion, will be playing until March 1st at the 130-seat Falcon Theater in Burbank. Audiences will get not just a George tribute, but a multimedia emotional story from Kelly about family, adolescence, dreams, passions, life, humor, and death.

“One of the things is just to be able to give [George Carlin] fans a 360-degree human perspective of my father as a man, as a husband, as a struggling artist who questioned purpose in life,” said Kelly of her show. “People saw this one version of my father on stage and just didn’t know much about him as a human.”

And it wasn’t all glamor and glory for Kelly, having a famous (and in some circles, infamous) Dad and growing up on Los Angeles’ lavish west side. Kelly’s show illustrates that the simplicity of her father’s comedy actually came from a man with a complicated, yet always loving, home life.

In total, Kelly Carlin’s show is the product of four years of writing, memorizing and performing the show at comedy festivals—carefully refining each moment of the 45 years she shared with her father down to a 95-minute masterpiece. Evidently, editing and exquisite stage presence are hereditary virtues.

Kelly, 51, hopes that people can learn through her story that coming to terms with life’s burdens can “take a while,”  and “takes a lot of courage.” She says that the show is “an interesting balance between being on [her] life, and at this point, is an exercise as an artist in creating a world for the audience to live through.”

Along with the stage direction of comedian-filmmaker Paul Provenza (The Aristocrats), A Carlin Home Companion brings to life what Kelly says, is the vulnerability many artists struggle with as they attempt to feel internally safe in the world.

Some of the most well-known comedians today have shown interest in Kelly’s show. In a recent episode of his podcast with Kelly, comedian Todd Glass admitted that he will not only be seeing the show with his production staff, but that he is indeed one of those fans who has elevated George (jocularly) to near-deity status: when Glass feels the need to prove himself, he doesn’t “swear to God”, he swears “to George Carlin”.

When the Los Angeles run of A Carlin Home Companion ends in early March, Kelly plans to take the show national. She will also be releasing what will likely be a detailed and deep memoir in September of this year.

And if you want to share some quality time with Kelly as she shares her tales from the Carlin family, go see A Carlin Home Companion on its final weekend:  http://www.falcontheatre.com/

Sum 41’s Deryck Whibley Performs Live for the First Time Since Nearly Dying

He didn’t storm into the party like [his] name was El Niño. That was 2001 (with his MTV smash hit, “Fat Lip”).

deryck whibley back on stageThis is thirteen years later. Meet Deryck Whibley—the lead singer and guitarist from Canadian punk-rock quartet Sum 41.

After millions of album sales, dozens of world tours, and collaborations with pop superstars Ludacris and Iggy Pop, Whibley took on this night what might be the biggest step of his life:  he calmly jumped back on stage to do what he loves most with six strings and amplified distortion.

To the casual observer, Whibley’s return to the stage looked like a quick cameo by a five-foot four-inch bleach-blond guitarist in a cover band.

But only six months ago, Whibley nearly died of alcohol-induced liver and kidney failure. So this night was a momentous occasion for the 34-year-old.

While Horrible Bosses 2 was premiering at the TCL Chinese Theater a few blocks away, Whibley’s return to the stage happened at what might have been the best party in Hollywood that night—at a bowling alley of all places.

The night began with the cover band Toddsplanet, fronted by H20 founder and touring Offspring guitarist Todd Morse. The 10-piece orchestra featured a talented, energetic brood of musicians specializing in rock-hip-hop-groovy-hybrid cover songs mostly from the late 20th century. As they opened their set with covers of “Back in Black”, “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked”, and the Rolling Stones’ “Miss You”, the bowling alley turned into the House of Blues.

But this wasn’t a concert Whibley. It was actually a fundraiser for The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank—and a delightful way for Whibley to ease back into the live music scene in the company of friends and family. And Playboy Bunnies, who along with Lucky Strike Entertainment, were a sponsor of the evening.

As Toddsplanet continued their set list of eclectic cover songs, Whibley waited for his cue to come on stage while standing about ten feet back from the front with his fiance, Ariana Cooper, by his side. The mere sight of Cooper standing with her arm wrapped around Whibley elicited a beautiful balance:  she is a stunning Los Angeles model standing least six feet tall (without platform shoes), with deep brown hair reaching almost to her waist.

If this were a Sum 41 show, Whibley and Cooper would have been in the epicenter of a mosh pit. Instead, they were soaking up each song belted by Toddsplanet. They weren’t dancing, swaying, or singing. They were content to have come this far together since Whibley’s alcoholism caught up with him half a year ago.

About midway through the set, the cover band’s front man called into the crowd for a guest performer to come on stage. But it wasn’t Whibley.

Strutting to the stage in a light-blue blazer with a fat cigar sizzling in his mouth came Entourage star Jeremy Piven. After a quick twirling of the drumsticks, Piven and the rest of Toddsplanet rocked a spot-on cover of Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”.  Later on, the bearded Piven would explain that his biggest influences in the drummer’s seat are Cream’s Ginger Baker, and Nirvana’s Dave Grohl.  And it showed.  Piven never missed a beat.

Whibley and Cooper grinned and snapped pictures of Piven smashing the drums. But overall, kept their animation to a minimum.

Two songs after Piven on the drums, Morse called upon Whibley to come on stage and and perform a passionate rendition of the Rolling Stones’ “Bitch”.  Joining Whibley on the guitar was Sugarcult guitarist Marko DeSantis who would take the lead on covering the Keith Richards guitar solos. Whibley stood in the back center, gingerly headbanging and ripping loud distorted power chords on a Fender Telecaster. Didn’t crack a smile.  Didn’t sing a word. His friends, several of whom originated in Canada as well, cheered him on. Cooper smiled from ear to ear at her man.

After stepping off the stage, the first person to hug Whibley was Piven. Although Whibley and Piven were taking pictures together in the middle of the crowd during the rest of the show, it is not likely that the Emmy award-winning actor will be filling the vacant drummer job for Sum 41. Steve Jocz, the long-time Sum 41 drummer, quit the band in 2013.

When asked about how he’s doing, Whibley said with poise and pride, “I feel absolutely great…just making new stuff for Sum 41.”

For the next nine and a half songs, the cover band continued to delight the crowd of over two hundred attendees. The night culminated with a 4-minute dance party as Toddsplanet finished their set with a cover of OutKast’s “Hey Ya!”  Whibley absorbed it all from the front of the would-be mosh pit with Piven.

Still, for the foreseeable future, the tabloid press will continue to define Whibley as either the ex-husband of Avril Lavigne (they split in 2010) or as just another recovering rockstar alcoholic.

But that could hardly be further from the truth. Whibley is back in the studio churning out another Sum 41 album. He’s alcohol-free, surrounded by talented friends, and even found time during Thanksgiving week to take his Mom to a Fleetwood Mac concert at The Inglewood Forum. He may not have stormed into the party like [his] name was El Niño, but he’s back and looks better than ever.

Jeremy Piven and Deryck Whibley Rock Out in Hollywood

Jeremy Piven Drums, Deryck Whibley Returns to the Stage, & Playboy Playmates Dazzle—All for Charity

Jeremy Piven and Deryck Whibley Rock Out in Hollywood

By Brian Fishbach (@BrianFishbach)

While Horrible Bosses 2 was premiering at the TCL Chinese Theater, the best party in Hollywood last night was rocking just a block away—at a bowling alley of all places.

In support of The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank and hosted by Lucky Strike Live at the corner of Hollywood and Highland, the charity event was pure entertainment for the couple-hundred fans, friends, and family of the performers.

The night began with the band Toddsplanet, fronted by H20 founder and touring Offspring guitarist Todd Morse. The 10-piece orchestra featured a talented, energetic brood of musicians specializing in rock-hip-hop-groovy-hybrid cover songs mostly from the late 20th century. As they opened their set with covers of “Back in Black”, “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked”, and the Rolling Stones’ “Miss You”, the bowling alley turned into the House of Blues.

About halfway through the set, Morse called into the crowd for a guest drummer: strutting to the stage in a light-blue blazer came Entourage star Jeremy Piven. After a quick twirling of the drumsticks, Piven and the rest of Toddsplanet rocked a spot-on cover of Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”.

Later on, the bearded Piven would explain that his biggest influences in the drummer’s seat are Cream’s Ginger Baker, and Nirvana’s Dave Grohl.  And it showed.  Piven never missed a beat.

One of the biggest surprises of the night was when Morse called upon Sum 41 lead singer and guitarist Deryck Whibley to join the pumped-up musicians on stage in slaying a passionate rendition of the Rolling Stones’ “Bitch”.

Many in the packed bowling alley knew that seeing the 34-year-old Canadian rocker Whibley on stage was a special experience. Only six months ago, Whibley nearly died of alcohol-induced liver and kidney failure. But now, Whibley looks as healthy as ever on stage doing what he clearly loves most with six strings and amplified distortion.

When asked about how he’s doing, Whibley said with poise and pride, “I feel absolutely great…just making new stuff for Sum 41.”

Although Whibley and Piven were spotted taking pictures together in the middle of the crowd, it is not likely that the Emmy award-winning actor will be filling the vacant drummer job for Sum 41.

The night continued, until a 4-minute dance party erupted with Toddsplanet finishing their set with a cover of OutKast’s “Hey Ya!”

And as if the night needed any more entertainment, several Playboy Bunnies were in attendance. At one point, they joined Toddsplanet on stage for some backup dancing. The scene was fitting, since Todd Morse’s wife Kim Phillips was Playboy’s Miss September 2009.

Punk fans would be delighted to know that also spotted in attendance were legendary stage manager Kenny Leath, former Bad Religion guitarist Greg Hetson, and Sugarcult’s Marko DeSantis. By the end of the night, the Lucky Strike bowling alley no longer felt like the House of Blues. As Morse described, it felt like a bunch of friends having fun and raising money for a great cause by rocking out in their garage.

10 Things I Hate About You Cast Reunion Reminisces Like It Was 1999

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Andrew Keegan, and David Krumholtz Reunite for a “10 Things” Screening

In front of a packed house of more than 200 at 11:59 PM last Friday night, actors Joseph Gordon-Levitt, David Krumholtz, Andrew Keegan, and Susan May Pratt came together to celebrate fifteen years of 10 Things I Hate About You–a late-1990s high school comedy based loosely on William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.

The pre-screening question and answer session featured the slap-happy actors, as well as screenwriters Karen McCullah and Kirsten Smith–and it felt like nothing short of a high school reunion of old friends.

On filming, actor David Krumholtz, who flew in from New Jersey just for the reunion, told the audience at the Nuart Theater in West Los Angeles, “the movie was like summer camp…and the group of actors hung out every single night.”

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who of all the actors at the reunion has achieved the most success since 1999, explained that the camaraderie they exuded while filming “never happens” amongst cast members, which ultimately made for such fantastic chemistry on screen.

The actors, now all in their mid-thirties, shared off-set anecdotes involving gratuitous cannabis use (which eventually became legal in Tacoma, Washington, where 10 Things was filmed), a group-outing to see the Beastie Boys in concert on their Hello Nasty tour, and rehearsing the famous penis-on-face drawing on Krumholtz by Keegan.

Eventually, the talk turned to a discussion of the fellow castmates who weren’t present at the reunion.

Although mention of Julia Styles was sparse, Larisa Oleynik offered a heartfelt email to be read to the crowd explaining her absence–she had lost her wallet and ID the night before in New York City and was unable to board a plane to California.

The most sincere moment of the evening by far was when the actors recalled their experiences with the late Heath Ledger, whose North American film career began with playing the mysteriously hilarious Patrick Verona in 10 Things.

On working with Ledger, Keegan told the crowd that “he was such a magical character, I’ve learned so much and was so inspired, having the opportunity to spend so much time [with Heath].”  Krumholtz shared that even though Heath arrived at the set two-weeks later than the rest of the cast that he “ingratiated himself” to everyone, and was “the de-facto leader of the group.”

Gordon-Levitt related how Ledger was quick to tease on set, and “knew how to play with you in such a way.”

After asking Keegan, clad in a fedora and a cape, about what other 1990s films he wanted to have a cast reunion, he admitted, “just this one, great to see everybody back together, connecting, remembering, experiencing shooting the film.  We had a great time.”  Likely as good of a time as the fans had

All for the price of $11, one fan in the crowd joked that she would have paid $100 to share the room with the teen film idols.

Around thirty minutes after midnight, 10 Things I Hate About You began to play to the cheers and applause of the crowd.  At 2:00 AM, as the credits began to roll, Joseph Gordon-Levitt put on a baseball cap and slyly escaped through the back exit like Batman.  Or in his case, Robin.

“Smash” Album by Offspring Turns 20 Years Old…But Still Very Much a Teenager

Some people love The Beatles.  Some people love Coldplay.  Some people love Springsteen.  Many people love Beyonce.  Miley Cyrus sells out arenas world wide.  But I love The Offspring. 

Twenty years ago today, the highest-selling independent album of all time was released:  “Smash” by The Offspring hit shelves of music stores (remember those?) on April 8, 1994.

April 8, 1994:

As a third-grader at the time, I wouldn’t hear any of the tracks until MTV occasionally interspliced “Come Out and Play” and “Self Esteem” into episodes of Beavis & Butthead.  “Smash” had so many hits:  the road rage ballad “Bad Habit”, the paranoid thriller “Gotta Get Away”, the peppy ska “What Happened To You”, and of course, “Nitro (Live Like There’s No Tomorrow)”

In the spring of 1994, I remember that the Milwaukee Brewers had just unveiled a new logo in April.  It was a year that also brought “Dookie” by Green Day, “The Blue Album” by Weezer, “Punk in Drublic” by NOFX, not to mention Ace Ventura, and the OJ Simpson White Bronco chase.

All these years later, “Smash” still endures.  As I think about this 20-year milestone, I visualize the montage of times this album serenaded life: while at my desk doing Algebra and studying Hebrew, to my Discman during long XC runs in high school, to blazing on max-volume while speeding down the 405.   “Smash” will always be my favorite.

The first songs I learned to play on the guitar were from this album.  The first live show I ever played, we closed the night with “Self-Esteem” like the vicarious Offspring devotees we were.   And to this day, the hits from “Smash” are still among my favorite to play.

And at its core, “Smash” is just 46 minutes of distorted rock songs recorded by four six-foot-tall geeks from Garden Grove.  I’ve had the fortune of meeting original members Dexter, Noodles, and Greg.  And yes, it made me appreciate “Smash” just a little bit more.

Some people love the Beatles.  Some people love Beyonce.  Many people love Sinatra.  Tons of people adore Garth Brooks.  I love the Offspring.  And today, their break out album “Smash” turns 20.  Stupid Dumbsh!t G0dd&mn Mother Fu#ker.

Tent–A Jewish Seminar Big Enough to Encompass It All

In March of 2013, I had the fortune of being invited to what was described to me as a “Jewish Comedians Seminar”.  My first reaction was, “That’s a bit redundant, ay?”
I learned about Tent via Twitter of all places after writing one of my snarky Jewish satire pieces for GatherTheJews. tent logo

What it was really titled was “Tent:  Encounters with Jewish Culture”, a new program started by the Yiddish Book Center.  The program aims at showing how a commitment to Jewish culture can be a portal into deeper and more inspired Jewish self-awareness—and ultimately professional development.

And the year 2014 is going to be a BIG one for Tent:

In 2014, 10 Tent seminars, taking place in New York, Los Angeles, Montreal, and the South, will gather twentysomethings who are passionate about food, comics, music, journalism, fashion, social justice, art, history, and contemporary Jewish culture.  Applications are available and deadlines are fast approaching:  http://tentsite.org/apply

Twenty applicants will be accepted for each of the week-long programs. Tent is offered free to all accepted applicants. Each of the seminars will explore aspects of modern culture through a Jewish lens. Tent programs are designed to help young people to discover how much of what’s exciting in contemporary America from stand-up comedy to serious literature, from pop music and theater to film, law, and cuisine – have rich Jewish histories.

My experience?  I attended the Tent: Comedy seminar.
When I applied, I only knew a few details:  The Seminar would last one week.  It would be held in Los Angeles.  There would be twenty Jewish comedians between the ages of 21 and 30.  We would meet established Jewish comedy writers in LA.  Tent would pay for many of the meals.  So free food.  Funny people.  Schmoozing with funny people with my dream job.  And a week away from the daily grind of my current job.
For an entire week, we would open the morning with free food.  Score!  And then for two hours, we would have a lecture and discussion on topics such as “what is Jewish comedy?” and “why us?”.  A prominent Jewish Cultural History professor, Tony Michels of the University of Wisconsin-Madison would lead us from the comedy scenes of Ellis Island to the Catskills to Carnegie Hall to Tinseltown.  From Groucho Marx to Lenny Bruce to Jerry Seinfeld to Sarah Silverman.

To compliment the morning lectures, Tent arranged to have an established figure in the Los Angeles comedy scene do a question and answer session with us.  One question I recall was asked of Simpsons writer Ken Levine, “what’s the best way to network in the comedy scene?”  Levine replied, here’s what not to do:  “shortly after a parent died, I was at the funeral home picking out a casket, and one of the funeral home workers asked me if I would read his script.”  Point noted, Ken.

We also met with a writer from The New Yorker, an improv workshop from a former Saturday Night Live performer, and several television actors.

In the evenings, we would attend comedy shows, and several Tent members had the fortune of meeting Curb Your Enthusiasm star Jeff Garlin, comedian Todd Glass, Sarah Silverman, Ed Helms, Kevin Nealon, and Pete Holmes.
We also visited Cantors Famous Deli, and toured historic Boyle Heights, the former epicenter of the Los Angeles Jewish community.

By the end of the week, I could hardly stop repeating to my new friends, “If I found out about this program next week, I would be SO jealous of me.”  Modest?  No.  Honest?  Definitely.

And now, eight months later—-and a week before I move to LA to begin a dream career in a new city—- I am confidant that the new friends I made, the introspective Jewish identity I cultivated, and new career goals I visualized while at Tent Comedy will serve me splendidly on my next journey.

If you haven’t already checked out the 10 programs in 2014, do it now–and if you haven’t applied do that now too. Where else will you get the chance to spend a week with a cohort of like-minded Jews–and it’s all free!

Jewish Comedian Spotlight: Sarah Silverman

The term “Jewish comedian” sounds a bit redundant.  Or perhaps it just sounds unnecessary since so many members of the tribe have made a living being a lingual muse.

Either way, 42-year-old comedian Sarah Silverman is ambivalent when it comes to the “Jewish comedian” label.  And for good reason:  Her father was Jewish, her sister Susan is a rabbi, and her last name is SILVERMAN.

And in 2008, Silverman helped orchestrate “The Great Schlep”, which encouraged young Jewish voters to get their Jewish grandparents in South Florida to get off the golf course and vote in the Presidential election.

Still, in an interview with Movieline in 2011, Silverman says “I’m so associated with being Jewish — and I do it myself — but I have no religion. To me it’s cultural, it comes out of my pores. I can’t control it. I wasn’t raised with any religion, I have no religion, but it’s become such a part of me. ‘Jewish comedian Sarah Silverman!’ You know what I mean?

The “comedian” label needs not much clarification.  A quick look through Silverman’s YouTube videos, quotes, or book The Bedwetter, you will see that being a Jewish girl is just one of the countless topics Silverman touches with her pointed prose.

Along the way, Silverman has appeared on almost every late-night talk show since the late 1990s.  In 21 years on the comedy circuit, Silverman has had a part in so many television shows and films that she has proven to be a pretty reliable talent, always ready to work with her fellow comedian pals.

Silverman even had a cameo in the film adaptation of the musical Rent.<

Profane?  Yes.  Insightful?  Absolutely.  Shocking?  No doubt.  “Jewish comedian”?  The label is distracting.  But Silverman is certainly a bright and talented comedian—-a modern-day Lenny Bruce with a hint of Jewishness and a hunk of obscenity.

What North American Schools Have the Largest Jewish Populations?

With Labor Day weekend just around the corner, millions of students in the United States are heading back to class at their respective colleges and universities.

And shortly thereafter, the Jewish students will be interrupting their study sessions, keg parties, football games by attending High Holidays services.

In that spirit, here is a list of which schools in North America have the most Jewish students and largest percentage of the student population that is Jewish.

A few takeaways:

  • University of Florida, University of Central Florida, and University of Maryland have the highest total number of Jewish students, each topping over 5,000.
  • The largest Jewish population at a school west of the Mississippi River is the University of Texas, University of Arizona, and UCLA, each topping over 3,000.
  • The Big Ten Conference is the most Jewish athletic conference represented on the top 60 list, with Northwestern, Maryland (in 2014), Rutgers (in 2014), Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio State, Illinois, and Michigan State, each with over 2,500 Jewish students.


(Facts courtesy of Reform Judaism Magazine and Hillel.   http://bit.ly/17mbO1z)



Jewish Comedian Spotlight: Lewis Black

Published on August 14, 2013 on Gather the Jews.com

On the outside, Lewis Black features a gruff voice, thick-rimmed glasses, and gyrating neck jowls.  On the inside?  Insightful chaos.   Unlike many comedians, Black has shied away from humor intended to shock audiences, but rather leave them walking away with a sense of both irreverence and education.

Straight outta Silver Spring, Maryland, comedian Black epitomizes the word “curmudgeon”.  In his book, “Nothing’s Sacred”, the Jewish-raised comedian chastises the name of the town where he was Bar Mitzvahed in 1961 as lacking both “the seasonal spring” and a “single silver-miner”.  Small irritations such as these have led Black to have an enormous career in comedy that has spanned over thirty years.

His screaming commentary on American politics have been a favorite of Jon Stewart, who has featured Black’s rants countless times on “The Daily Show”.

And for two seasons, Black hosted his own television show on Comedy Central.  ”The Root of All Evil”, which aired in 2008, pitted the pros and cons of topics such as Olympic Games vs. Drinking Games, NRA vs. PETA, and High School vs. American Idol.

In this 2008 video of Black at the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue in DC, he describes what it was like to be the first Jew his roommates had ever met at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-o1SwGK8Gf4 (Warning, language is rated R)

He turns 65 years-old this High Holiday season.  While well-versed in the traditions of Judaism, Black has offered his own sermon for the community:  ”There are things about the Jewish religion that I carry with me to this day. Chief among them is Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, as it’s so happily called. It had a profound effect on my innocent young mind. The service opens with the organ playing “Kol Nidre,” one of the spookiest pieces of music ever written. You hear it and literally are surprised bats and shit aren’t flying around.”

Perhaps a jazzy Kol Nidre melody would suit Black’s mood better (because despite all of his blood-pressure-raising anger, Black’s music of choice is not thrash metal, but contemporary Jazz.

He is almost always on tour.  Check out Lewis Black’s website for more information:  http://lewisblack.com/.

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