Gary Gulman: Born on 3rd Base (2023 | Transcript

"Born on 3rd Base" is Gary Gulman's humorously poignant exploration of poverty and societal inequities, delivered with insightful wit and a bold, unapologetic stance.
Gary Gulman: Born on 3rd Base (2023)

Gary Gulman’s “Born on 3rd Base” transcends traditional observational comedy, offering an hour-long commentary on poverty and inequality with humor and unwavering candor. Set against the grandeur of Toronto’s Great Hall, Gulman transforms mundane experiences into poignant critiques of societal treatment of the poor, interweaving personal narratives with broader societal issues. His material, ranging from the trivialities of Pop-Tarts to the disparities in comedian earnings, is delivered with a confidence that challenges the audience to confront uncomfortable truths. Gulman’s approach is not only technically impressive but also deeply invested in pushing the boundaries of comedy to shed light on economic disparities, making the special a compelling blend of laughter and reflection.

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Anyhow, a lot of comedians are starting that way, and I think it’s, I think it’s kinda jazzy. Alright. Gary, start the special. It’s… Alright, so I’m doing the special material, but also, I wanna give you a quick excerpt from my one-person show, which is… it’s a work in progress, but I, I have the title. It’s called “Mommy, Look.” And the title stems from my-my theory that… just about every one-person show could be called… “Mommy, Look.” I… I’ve said for a long time, you show me a 4-year-old on a diving board, screaming, “Mommy, look” to an unreceptive audience, in 14 years, I will show you a theater major. “Mommy, look! Mommy! Mommy!” “Mommy, look.” The subtext of my near 30-year comedy career is, “Mommy, look.” The same thing I’ve been screaming since I was 4 years old, just now, I’m doing it from the diaphragm. And with better posture, thanks to my theatrical training. Had my mother looked up once from her “People” magazine… …while I screamed, “Mommy!” I wouldn’t be here right now. I wouldn’t need this type of external validation. I– Some other maladjusted man-child would be here in my stead. I just wanna let the people in the front rows know that they are safe from me, asking what they do for work. I remember going to comedy shows when I was in high school, and later, and the comedian would ask somebody what they did for work, and then proceed to ridicule their profession. And I just remember thinking, if I am ever in the front row at a comedy show and a comedian asks me what I do for work, I will stand up and say, “What do you do for work?” I didn’t come here to be forcibly cast in your TikTok video. You lazy hack.

But here’s the autobiography. I grew up in an oft-ignored sector of Jewish people called… poor. Which is kind of an O. Henry twist there. We were– We were poor Jews, but you laughed because it upset the status quo, but… A culture as big, about 12 million of us, as big as Jewish people, we have versions of you… within it. There are poor Jews, there are rich Jews, there are smart Jews, there are dumb Jews. There are athletic Jews. Yes, there are poor Jews. And we were proper poor. Food stamps, free lunch. Welfare. We were on it. We were on welfare. I got free lunch. The dirty little secret about the free lunch program is that it’s also free breakfast. If you could get to school by 6:15 a.m. for a school day that started at 8:50… The indignities they thrust upon poor kids never end, even in the timing of that, that you would be forced to get up at 5:45 to get some calories, it was almost– It had to have been planned. Let’s prepare these kids for their futures as migrant apple pickers… …and longshoremen… …by getting them up at 5:45 for breakfast. And if you got there by 6:15, you could get a half pint of milk, a Pop-Tart, and a variety pack-sized Kellogg’s cereal box. I-I’m sorry, I said “and.” Or a variety pack-sized… …cereal. And if you got there any later than 6:20, all the good variety pack cereals would be taken. So you would wind up with the Corn Flakes… …which I do not know why they included that in the variety pack. No kid wants Corn Flakes. I would sometimes play it off if I got there late. I would say, “Oh, no, no. I didn’t– “I didn’t want Frosted Flakes. “I wanted, I wanted the Corn Flakes.” “I, I use it in my chicken recipe.” “My, my chicken recipe calls for “a variety pack-size of… …Corn Flakes.”

Now, if I got there on time, I would always get the, get the Pop-Tart. But even in the Pop-Tart, the Pop-Tart… was just a complete F-you to the poor kids who were eating it. First of all, it was one Pop-Tart. I knew they came in packs of two. I’m poor. I am not stupid. And then, the other thing about the Pop-Tart, they had enough frosting to spread it all the way to the edge. I’m sure there was a person in the factory who said, “Hey, boss, we have, we have a lot of extra frosting today. “Do you wanna spread it all the way to the edge for this next batch?” And he said, “Do you want these kids to ever stop sucking at the government teat?” “That bitter crust will remind them of what their futures are going to look like.” “Frosting all the way to the edge? “Are you insane? Why don’t we put frosting on both sides while we’re at it?” “What are we, Toaster Strudel? Get back to work, Eugene V. Debs.” Everything about the Pop-Tart they did to screw with poor kids. First of all, the name. It’s not a real tart. And it brought about a cultural blind spot in all poor kids, where the first time we saw a real tart… …there was this cognitive dissonance, this disconnect. “Wait a minute. This…” The first time I ever saw it was at an Au Bon Pain. Au Bon Pain! It was a tart. It said tart, but it looked nothing like a Pop-Tart. The, the real tart has nothing in common with the Pop-Tart. Th-The real tart, first of all, it’s three-dimensional. The Pop-Tart is barely dimensional. You, you would have to be living in Flatland to consider that a dimension. Also, the real tart has chunks of fruit. Apples, pears, raspberries, blueberries in it. Whereas the Pop-Tart has a suggestion of a rumor of a whisper of fruit-flavored, artificially colored schmutz. It’s so fraudulent that the Pop-Tart calls itself… a-a tart.

I’m gonna use an analogy… to clarify this. The– The tart is to the Pop-Tart, as the Grizzly bear is to the… gummy bear. Just… That’s a really strong analogy. And the irony of me coming up with such an apt analogy… is that… I flunked out of analogy school. And flunking out of analogy school is like… It’s as if… I used to think they called it a Pop-Tart because it popped out of the toaster. No. Pop is short for populist. It’s the poor man’s tart. Welfare saved my family, and I’m not ashamed to have been on it. It just has been demonized for decades, and unnecessarily so. It’s infuriating to me because they’ve been making the same argument. Even since I was a kid, they keep making this same argument, and it, and it goes usually like this. “Well, welfare doesn’t work. “That’s why we wanna, we wanna get rid of it. “We wanna strangle the welfare programs “because it just… Doggone it.” “Dagnabbit.” “It doesn’t work. Oh gosh, how I wish it worked!” “But what happens is the-the welfare recipients, “they lose their initiative, “and they become dependent on welfare for generation after generation.” And I remember even at 7 years old, I could see through that flimsy argument. Th-The one thing I will say about poor kids for us is that we’re much more astute about financial ideas and mechanisms than the average person. The-The rich kids have no idea how much we know about what things really cost. Like, at 7 years old, and I’m not exaggerating, I understood the tax ramifications of the alimony portion of my parent’s divorce decree, okay? Because every April, my mother would be crying on the phone with the IRS because it was taxable. The alimony part was taxable, and she owed. And they would, they would say, “We’re gonna put a lien on your house.” And I didn’t know how to spell that type of lien. No. I knew it wasn’t “lean” on our house. There were tears involved.

So, I just, I understood these things at a level that most kids don’t understand because these were like traumatic moments in my life. So that when I heard this argument, “Welfare doesn’t work. “The people lose their initiative. They become dependent for generation after generation,” I couldn’t have put this into words because I didn’t possess the words “breathtakingly” and “disingenuous.” But… I knew they were full of shit. And-And I would’ve said, “Oh, you’re looking out for my, oh, my initiative. Thank you.” “Thank you for looking out for my character. “I, I have to admit, I was being a little bit cynical. I, I thought you just didn’t wanna pay any taxes.” “But you were looking out for my character. “Thank you so much. “Can I just share a little concern I have? “You already have more money than you can spend. You’re just gonna leave it in a trust fund to your children.” A trust fund is this very expensive way to tell your children you don’t believe in them. “You’re gonna leave this money to your children “in a trust fund. And I just… “I worry your children are gonna lose their initiative “and become dependent for generation after generation, which…” “…is the more likely scenario, considering it’s a cliché.” It’s a cliché we’ve been playing for laughs for hundreds of years, so… Do you know how long the average family stays on welfare? Two years. Two years. Two years is not a generation. Unless you’re a bandicoot. That’s not generation after generation. My family, we were off welfare, all of us, by the time we got out of high school. A pittance of an investment in the Gulman boys. We’ve repaid over and over again in our own taxes. I’m doing fine. This is all Banana Republic. Now, full disclosure, I purchased this “ensemble”… …during one of Banana Republic’s thrice-weekly 40% off sales. If you put in any effort at all, if you show any initiative… …you can wear Banana Republic – for the price of Old Navy. – I am not exaggerating. Just wait until the next 40% off sale. Now. They should have to put a sign up when they’re not offering 40% off, and that sign should say, “closed.” “We’ll email you when the next price break comes up.” Then go online, find yourself an additional 20% off promo code. I’ll give you what I used last week. “Summer savings.” Enjoy. Enjoy. Stock up on tees. Whenever I get the promo code, I always think to myself, “I coulda guessed that.” But, the truth is I couldn’t have. It’s always just clever enough. Okay, summer savings? Hm? They spelled summer with a dollar sign. Oh, Banana! You impish scamp! $30 for the shorts. How much for the whimsy? Free whimsy at Banana Republic. Half-off caprice. Capris? The short– No, no, no. Caprice. A synonym for whimsy.

Okay, that’s just a little– I always– I pander to my base. Which… Which is librarians. Librarians right now, when they– I had them at O. Henry. And then… We never felt too poor, I will say, and there were, there were three reasons. The reasons were threefold. Imagine. Imagine if I used that suffix “-fold.” It is, without a doubt, the most pretentious suffix… …in the English language. Just say there were three. Threefold? The same type of people who say “threefold” also say, “For lack of a better term.” Whereas working class people like us, instead of saying, for lack of a better term, we go, “Uh…” For lack of a better term. Just think of a better term! The second– The second most pretentious suffix, I would say, is “-esque.” Unless you’re talking about something French, I think you– We’re “-ish” people. I feel comfortable around people who say “-ish.” I think one of the most pretentious things you can say is “Kafkaesque.” That’s just… you’re showing off. We’re working class. Just say “Kafkish.” Which has the benefit of also sounding like a kosher pastry. Can I get a pound of the Kafkish? And a dozen rugelachhh. And a raisin chhhallah. I don’t know if, if Jews are doing this everywhere, but in an attempt to assimilate, I’ve noticed a lot of Jewish people pulling back on the “chhh.” They’re saying challah and rugelah. And I say no. Embrace the “chhh.” Embrace it! What are they gonna do? Hate us?

Alright, so the reasons are threefold. There are three reasons… …why we didn’t feel poor. One. For a poor family, we had pretty good electronics. We frequently had a good television set. Sometimes, we even had a good stereo. And this was all thanks to my Uncle Norman’s job. My mother’s twin brother, Uncle Norman. His job, he was… a burglar. What did I tell you about Jewish people? We have a version of every profession. Uncle Norman was a burglar. And you’re like, “Yeah, but he got out of it and moved on.” No, no, no, he died a burglar. He was, actually, a fence. He would receive stolen merchandise and then resell it. The man never made an honest dollar in his life, but… he got us incredible electronics. Poor people, you have to understand, we’re not very picky about warranties and… …serial numbers and receipts. We just wanna watch color TV. So, Uncle Norman would get us these things, and sometimes, he would store things in our house until the heat was off. Wh-Which took on this other meaning for the heat was off, ’cause sometimes, the heat was off in our house. But we’d have a pinball machine in our kitchen. We were warming our hands on The Who’s “Tommy.” So, that was the first reason we didn’t feel poor.

The second reason we didn’t feel poor was that the income inequality was not as vast, as significant, in the ’70s. And up until 1983-ish… …it wasn’t as bad as it, as it is now. What we’re living in now, I would categorize it as “Tale of Two Cities-esque.” In fact, it’s-it’s worse than 18th-century France, In 18th-century France, according to “Tale of Two Cities,” and I’ll just do a little bit of the preamble. The overlapping is-is astonishing. “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” Check. “It was the age of wisdom. It was the age of foolishness.” Big check. “It was the epoch of belief. It was the epoch of incredulity.” But I could keep going. But, at no point did Dickens say, “Also, three or four times a week, there was a show called ‘Shark Tank.'” Even the 18th-century French aristocrats never made their “entrepreneurs” dance for a small investment in their life’s work. That is a cruelty… …that is just us. I– That show… I hate it! Please, if you have an idea, do not go on “Shark Tank.” There are… places that offer much better terms… …than the “Shark Tank” sharks. I happen to have an accounting and finance degree from Boston College. “It’s no Harvard”… was our motto. It sounds much nicer in Latin.

Okay, so here’s a place where you can get better terms than the “Shark Tank” sharks, and this is where you should take it. A bank! They make reasonable investments in small businesses. You know who else offers better terms than the “Shark Tank” sharks? The Devil! He’ll take your soul. He will not take as much of your annual net income as the “Shark Tank” sharks. Also, Mr. Gazzo from “Rocky 1,” the loan shark, he offers better terms than the “Shark Tank” sharks. Do not go on “Shark Tank.” I wanna start a show to counter-program against “Shark Tank,” and I would call it… “Guillotine.” And what would happen on “Guillotine” is billionaires would sit in front of working class folks like ourselves, and they would have to convince us not to chop their heads off on live television. And we– “How much of it are you gonna give away? “Some of it? No, no. That’s not enough. – That’s not enough. – Bring the blade up.” “You’re gonna give all of it away? Okay. Alright. No blade.” The income inequality is just… it’s cartoonish. Even in my business, just the difference between me and– Do you remember the guy who played Jerry on “Seinfeld”? Okay. He’s in the same business, ostensibly, as I am, but he is worth over $1 billion. And now let’s say he’s a, he’s a better comedian, for argument’s sake, but then we’ll come back to this universe. Can you imagine? Is he $999,911,000 better than me? And now, you know my net worth. About $89,000, if you consider my security deposit to be an asset. The accounting is murky on that. I’m probably not gonna get the entire… …security, ’cause I had, had dogs, and so… Here’s the thing. Jerry Seinfeld, okay? He owns a building in Manhattan where he houses his extensive Porsche collection. Okay? My wife and I, we don’t have enough room on our kitchen counter to keep the toaster on display at all times. And here’s what’s beautiful about this audience. You’re so generous. You are all picturing a four-slicer. It’s a deuce. My wife and I had to have an apartment-wide meeting… …in which we determined that we-we needed to keep the microwave oven on the counter because you can’t take it out every time you want popcorn. And we had to keep the coffee machine on the counter at all times because I want no delay in getting to the machine that makes the beverage that makes life tolerable. So, she said we should put the blender and the toaster in a cabinet. I’m sorry. The cabinet. And so why am I bitter? Because I can’t imagine that the Seinfelds have to rank their appliances. That’s why I’m jealous.

The third reason. The third-fold… …why we never felt poor was my dad. Phil Gulman was what we call a mensch. He was a kind, thoughtful, generous man. A complete failure in terms of capitalism. He never made a great living, but he left us with such strong values. No valuables. I got– I’m not exaggerating. I got his copy of “Gone Girl.” But the values. I remember– This is why we didn’t feel poor. Because he had this policy. He would say, “If there’s something you really want, “just ask me.

Don’t steal.

Don’t go to Uncle Norman.” “Come to me. I’ll try to find the money.” And then sometimes, he would come through with the money. I remember for my 11th birthday, he got me all the books for “Dungeons and Dragons” and the expert playing set, which came with, like, nine different types of dice. But, unfortunately, and nobody could have foreseen this, it didn’t come with any friends. So he got me that. But then one year, I think it was, like, 1978, let’s say. I wanted to play– I wanted to keep playing hockey. But hockey, the price for a season of playing hockey was $50 in ’77. And then in 1978, they raised it to $500 because of a new tax policy in Massachusetts, where I grew up. It was called “Prop two-and-a-half.” And people would save 2.5% on their property taxes, and all they had to give up was children’s art, music, gym, afterschool sports, and tutoring. It sounded like a tax policy designed by a Roald Dahl villain. But I wanted to keep playing hockey, so I said to my dad, “I really wanna play hockey.” He said, “If you really wanna play hockey, “I’ll try to find the money “for you to play this sport you’ve shown no potential in.” “Not only have you shown no potential in hockey, but Jews…” “…have acquitted themselves with very little distinction, “to be honest with you, Gary. “Son, go grab the Sports Almanac. “We’re gonna look at the Hockey Hall of Fame. We will count the Jewish players in the Hockey Hall of Fame.” And we open up the book. He said, “Okay, ready? Done.” This was 1978. There were zero Jewish players in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1978. Now, there are zero Jewish players in the Hockey Hall of Fame. My dad said, “Just for a point of comparison, son, “more Jews have been… the Messiah.” “Do you– “Do you understand that, Gary? That you… “are more likely to walk on water “than you are to skate on it, holding the Stanley Cup?” “But if you really wanna play, we’ll find the money. Yeah, we’ll find the money, Jesus.”

One benefit, and I’m sure there are a number of benefits, to growing up poor, for one, it-it humbles you, but also, it makes you more compassionate, more empathetic. I think empathy is, is one of the most valuable things we can teach our kids and-and grow up with. It’s just– It’s almost automatic for poor people because we’ve struggled, and we feel bad seeing other people struggle or-or suffer. Now, that’s not 100% of poor people. Some people get money, and all of a sudden, they wanna pull up the ladder behind them and lock the door. But, for most of us, we really go out of our way to try and help people and also be more thoughtful and-and kind to people. You’ll notice that people who have worked fast food jobs are much more polite to the fast food people. People who have waited tables and bartended are the best tippers you will ever be around because we know how much those tips mean to people. And, and we go into fast food restaurants, and we’re much more patient with the people. I think one of the best examples of the rudeness that people treat fast food workers and workers of-of that category is at any of these restaurants where you direct the assembly of your meal. Your Chipotles, your Subways, your Just Salads, your Chop-t. Like, going to Chipotle, you may not have noticed this before tonight, but I assure you you will never not notice it after tonight. The people in front of you at Chipotle, as they direct the assembly of their burrito– Uh, sorry. Or their bowl. I try to be inclusive because– Because people, they feel hurt, and then you get the message the next day. “I was at Gary Gulman’s early show “in Toronto, where he ignored those of us who opt for the bowl.” “Who eschew…” “…the tortilla… “in favor of the bowl for dietary, religious, or political reasons.” Alright. As you’re directing the assembly of the burrito, or the bowl, the people in front of you, notice this. They’ll… Corn. Corn. Corn. Corn. Black beans. Brown rice. You’re like, “What, they point?” Nah, pointing is, is bad, but forgivable. They wag their fingers… …at other humans. That is staggeringly condescending. Also completely unnecessary. They know where the corn is. You found it. You don’t even work here. How would they not know where the corn is by this point in their shift? Just people who’ve worked in this job, we would never, because we’ve had fingers wagged at us. We would always give the Chipotle worker the benefit of the doubt. We would say “corn.” And then, if they looked baffled… …we would subtly… …before we ever got to that point! I wouldn’t last a shift at Chipotle. I’m so sensitive. Like, earlier tonight, I didn’t say anything ’cause we’re taping a special, but earlier tonight, when I said “Jewish poor,” I felt like most of you laughed in the right way. But, some of you, I felt, um… I mean, I might be being overly sensitive, but did you feel a little bit of a Holocaust denial? Like-Like, there was a laugh, it was like, “ha ha ha ha.”

And you, you just heard, “ha ha ha ha.”

I heard, “The numbers were exaggerated!” But I’m overly sensitive. So, what I’m saying is… I would not last six seconds at Chipotle. Somebody would come in. “Corn.” And I would… Brenda, I found the corn! It was with the other toppings! Isn’t, isn’t it always the last place you look? She’s– – I sent her into the walk-in. – She must be freezing, and it was here all along. Thank you so much. Where is the brown rice? But make sure to jam your finger into the sneeze guard so I have something to Windex at the end of my shift. Just something to look forward to… …before I go home. How can you be that mean to people? Just that… dismissive of people who probably aren’t being paid a living wage. Might have health insurance. Definitely don’t have dental. I-I love my dentist, but I have… I have a history with dentists in that, I don’t know if you know this about poor people, but most people go to a dentist for their teeth. But poor people, my mother specifically, would go to a local university that had a dental school, and these hungover 23-year-olds would take their midterms in my mother’s mouth, basically, just– And fail again and again and again. Just these mediocre students, just mucking around in my mother’s incisors and bicuspids. And it just built in me kind of this-this antipathy towards dentistry because– I love my dentist, but dentistry, it’s organized crime. First of all, the hygienist does 99.985% of the work. It shouldn’t be called, “going to the dentist.”

It should be called, “going to the hygienist featuring the dentist.” Like, the dentist shows up, has this Stan Lee-ish cameo. One line, which is always, “Oh, we don’t take any insurance.” Did you think you had insurance? You don’t have insurance. You have a free cleaning, which is like the loss leader of dentistry.

It’s like the cheap grapes at the front of the grocery store. You’re– “We brought you in here “to find $8,000 worth of work we can do in your mouth. So, no, you don’t have, you don’t have insurance.” You know how you know you don’t have dental insurance? You need dental insurance. That’s how you know you don’t have it. Every other doctor takes insurance. Dr. Dre takes my insurance. Doctors Who, Seuss, Dolittle, Strange, and Doom all take my insurance. They take my insurance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “Doctor, doctor, give me the news.” “I’ve got a bad case of loving you.” He… …takes my insurance. It’s unfathomable. A heart surgeon will open up your chest, replace a valve, put in four stents, save and extend your life, $45 co-pay. A… dentist mostly fills miniature potholes. Cash only today. We’ll work out a payment plan like any other strip mall retailer, but you’re gonna pay. And what’s so surprising is that dentists have all come together to deny my insurance. And yet, they are a profession notorious for not being able to reach a consensus on even the simplest of propositions. In a study… …a very serious, important, groundbreaking study, only four out of five dentists… …felt comfortable recommending Trident… …to their patients who chew gum! Now, you-you have to be around my age or older to understand why I stress “chew” gum. There was this commercial in which the narrator would say, “Four out of five dentists recommend Trident to their patients who ‘chew’ gum.” And I remember as a kid, I would say to my mother, “Why are they saying it like that?” “Why are they saying ‘chew’ gum? It should be chew gum.” And my mother by this point had developed Stockholm syndrome. And so, she would side with the dentists. And a lot of poor people, we have this pathology where we convey wisdom on rich people that they just don’t have. So, I would say to my mother, I said, “Why would they say their patients who ‘chew’ gum?” And my mother, always defending the rich, “I think they know what they’re doing, Gar.” Not in this case! By saying they’re patients who “chew” gum, they’re making it sound like there are alternatives… …to how we ingest gum. Oh, you recommend Trident to your patients who “chew” gum? What do you recommend to your patients who… snort gum? What do you recommend to your IV gum users? What do you recommend they…? Fruit Stripe gum? Okay, yeah. ‘Cause it starts off very strong, and then it, it doesn’t linger. What do you recommend to your patients who absorb gum through a semi-permeable membrane using a process known as osmosis? In other words, what do you tell your amoeba patients? Sorry, or your paramecium. I just don’t wanna get that… “I’m a paramecia. “A zillion of us came to Gary Gulman’s early show, “and we were so disappointed “that he acknowledged the amoebas, “but ignored almost half of the unicellular organism community.” “This was a slight I felt deep in my ribosome…” “…and mitochondria. My husband was literally pulling his cilia out.” Many of you sat in science class in eighth grade and thought, “When are we gonna need this?” June 22nd… 2020… I’m gonna dub in whatever year it is.

Every year, I’m gonna…

“Four,” so it’ll be, “This guy, he’s unbelievable.” ’24. But I have, I have a strong empathy. It might be– Sometimes, it gets in the way of enjoying things, and I, I think, “Well, I can’t enjoy certain things.” Like, I don’t– I’ve been upgraded to first class sometimes because I have all these miles from traveling, and I just don’t enjoy a moment of it because I feel like kind of a traitor to my class. And I’m-I’m incredibly insecure, and I’ve spent so much time walking through first class and just judging and, and making up stories in my head. And I don’t mean to distance myself from you, but I fly Comfort Plus. It’s just, it’s a, it’s a trade-off. For an extra $135, usually, I can get the legroom that prevents me from having my legs amputated because of blood clots. I cannot sit in-in the coach class. It just doesn’t work for me. So, I’m going to my Comfort Plus seat. I get so anxious and embittered. I always say, “Honey, don’t be impressed with these people. “If they had their shit together, they’d be in a private jet right now.” “They all have bosses. They all have bosses. “Don’t be dazzled by their Tommy Bahama polo shirts. These are not people to be impressed with.” The sad part is I’m almost always traveling alone when I do that. I can’t because of the empathy. I’m always boycotting things because I feel bad for enjoying things because of what they represent. I-I won’t drive a Mercedes-Benz. Even if I could afford one, I would not drive a Mercedes-Benz. Just so we’re all on the same page, Mercedes-Benz was not neutral during the Holocaust. They chose a side, and I, and I’m not going to– If you’re a Jew and you drive a Mercedes-Benz, please just tell me you won it in a raffle. I cannot… abide… Jews driving Mercedes-Benzes. I’m always boycotting things. I used to watch the NFL every Sunday from between four and 14 hours and… And then, they banned Colin Kaepernick from making a very reasonable protest by taking a knee. And I said, well, I’m done with that group. And the thing that’s aggravating is my boycotts never work. They’re having another Super Bowl. It’s already been given a date. I became vegan after seeing this documentary called “Food, Inc.” I saw how they were treating the chickens, and I said, “Well, that’s the end of that.” And I– Oh, man, I loved, I loved those foods. But then, I said, “I can’t. I can’t be a part of that.” Then, I saw a picture of a sea turtle in “National Geographic,” and it had a plastic straw stuck in its, in its cute little nostril, and they had to use a pliers to take it out. And I thought, “Oh, that could have been my plastic straw from a…”

Right? It could’ve been any of our… …plastic straws. And I made a vow that day. I say, “From here on out, it will not be one of my plastic straws.”

And people, when I told them I’m off plastic straws, they go, “What do you do about smoothies?”

And I said, “Well, I-I put a moratorium on smoothies until I– until I could figure it out.”

And what I figured out was that this, this stainless steel straw is the answer. It’s a a really good suck. By the way, I have no dog in the sea turtle fight. None of my ancestors are sea turtles. But the empathy, oy. So, I use this, and I-I love it. For $14.99, I got four of these, and it comes with a free pipe cleaner which answers your question, “How do you keep it clean?” Free pipe cleaner. So, look at me. I’m not only saving the majestic sea turtle, but also the near defunct… …the moribund pipe cleaner industry. The– The pipe cleaner industry was on its last legs. And here’s what’s so precious about the pipe cleaner industry’s last legs. It’s made out of a pipe cleaner. It’s made out of a pipe cleaner. And what they did was they took the points, and they, they folded it up so it looks like feet. Empathy. The thing with empathy is that… certain things, they hit you so hard, you feel it, and it can limit you. Like, because of my empathy, I can’t watch… close-up magic anymore. Which sounds like a non-sequitur, but it’s a sequitur. Okay, I have been a fan of magic as long as I’ve been… coherent, and I used to be a-a magician when I was a kid. Like a lotta kids, I had tricks, and I had a magic set, and I would make tricks from books and things like that, and I would practice all the time. And then one Passover, on, I think, night two at a seder, I asked my dad if I could put on a little magic show after the– Of course, I would do my job. I would ask the four questions, but then after the seder, after Dayenu say… “Gulman got really Jewy.” “I thought his base was librarians.” “It’s middle-aged Jews.”

I asked my father if I could do a magic show, and he said, “I, I don’t know, son. It might be a sacrilege to do magic on Passover.”

And my argument was, I said, “Dad, “what was Moses’ splitting of the Red Sea but the greatest ta-da…” “…in Jewish history?” And he, and he laughed, and he said, “Keep it tight.” Okay, so I was doing the magic tricks, and my brothers were sitting there and just calling out every single trick. “What’s in your other hand? Roll up your sleeve. What did you just drop?” And I was 7. You’re picturing them being 10 or 11, which is obnoxious, but forgivable. They were 20 and 23. The gift you have given me tonight, that I can be myself. Like, you enjoy my jokes, but you also enjoy me, which is just– I don’t know if you know what goes on… I don’t know if you know what goes on before the show, but I, I say a little prayer of gratitude. And then, then I remind myself of something my therapist always tells me, which is, um, “The audience, Gary, they’re not your family.” “These people are rooting for you.” So, this was why I stopped doing magic, I couldn’t, I couldn’t handle the heckling. I still loved magic all my years. And I-I remember the last time I went to a magic show. I was so moved. I went to this show at the Magic Castle in Hollywood. And the young man did this trick. And it sounds basic, but it was very complicated, and I knew how much effort must have gone into perfecting it. So, he does this thing. He says, “Pick a card, any card.” I pick the queen of diamonds. And then he handed me the queen of diamonds and a Sharpie and asked me to sign the back of the card. And so, I did that. Then he took the card with my signature and the Sharpie, put it into the deck, and did a series of elaborate shuffles, culminating in the cascading bridge. The… My sound effects are so poor. Cascading bridge, which I can’t do and makes me less of a man. Sometimes, people will ask me, they’ll say, “Gary, do you wanna play poker with us?” And I’ll say, “Oh, I don’t, I don’t gamble.” But the truth is I don’t shuffle. But, this guy, his cascading bridge, it was just perfection. So, he takes the deck, and then he put it into the pocket. This pocket in his blazer. From this pocket, he removed an orange.

And I screamed, “How?!” “I just saw you put the deck into this pocket. I watched every moment of it from here to here. Now, you’re implying it’s in the middle of that orange?”

When I told my mom this story, she said, “Gar, honey, how’d you know the card was in the orange?”

And I said, “Oh, that’s because I– I’ve seen magic before, you dingbat.” He didn’t pull out the orange ’cause he was concerned I had scurvy. “Bullocks to Gulman, who so blithely mentioned scurvy.” “A vitamin C deficiency that ravaged the British Royal Navy “in the 17th and 18th centuries. “First, he went after ‘Seinfeld,’ and I said nothin’.” “‘Cause I weren’t ‘Seinfeld.’ “Then, he went after dentists, and I said nothin’ ’cause I don’t care for them blokes neither. Then, he came for me.”

“Also, I thought it was a low blow and petty and spiteful that he mocked those of us who still sent our emails using a manual typewriter.”

“And while I don’t wanna stoop to his level and pick nits, but ‘is mime work is rubbish!”

“He would have his audience of librarians and middle-aged Jewish women believe that we return the carriage after every bloody letta!”

“And that we only type words that could be typed entirely with the left ‘and, such as west and steward and abracadabra.”

So, he hands me the orange. And he says, “Inspect it, make sure it hasn’t been doctored or manipulated in any way.” I said, “What can I prove?” “Without… “Without an MRI, “I got nothing. All I can say is bravo. “This is the greatest trick I’ve seen from this distance in my life. You are incredible.” And so, I handed him back the orange. He peeled it. Sure enough, in the center, queen of diamonds. My signature. Some pulp. “He’s self-referential!” And then he said, and this, to me, was the most impressive part of the trick. He said, “Is this your card?” That blew me away, right? The humility. I don’t possess that. It’s, it’s insecurity. I gloat. I boast. It’s– I know it sounds counterintuitive, but when you don’t believe in yourself, you’re so shocked when you come through, you’re like, “Yeah, in your face!” Like, I’ve been obnoxious about that. Like, when I was in high school, if I– uh, playing basketball, if I made a shot over you, and I, I would have… …and your coach called timeout to staunch the bleeding… …I wouldn’t go over to my huddle. I would go over to your huddle, stick my beak in, and say, “I’d bring in someone who can guard me.” And sometimes, the referee would come over and say, “Son, you pull that again, I’m gonna tee you up.” And I would say, “Pull what? Offer sage defensive counsel?” Sometimes, I’d go to the free throw line, I’d make the first one, and then, I’d turn to whoever fouled me and say, “Regrets?” “We could all be playing basketball right now if you’d shown a little self-control.” “I’m gonna make this next one, “even though your fans and cheerleaders are screaming, “Miss!” Lemme tell you something, kids. While you were all at prom and semi-formal and the Enchantment Under the Sea dance, I was keeping my elbow in… …and following through. I’m not gonna miss. You know what I consider a miss? If it hits any part of the rim before falling through the net. That’s my miss. It has to be esthetically pleasing as well as go through the points. If it hits, if it goes “g-g-g-g-g, I’ll cover my ears and scream, “Too loud!”

Now, that’s high school basketball. The stakes are very low. If I pulled your card out of citrus fruit in front of an audience, I’m not, “Is this your card?” I’d whip it out with a flourish. Look familiar, fuckface? How did I do it? I’m magic! Now, you’re wondering where, where does the empathy come in? He said, “Is this your card?” And I felt it. I, I wanted to say, “Not only is that my card, “this is the greatest trick I’ve ever seen in my life. “You are… “a perfect athlete, “a deft magician. “I am… I am in awe of you, sir. I am blown away.” But, because of the empathy, my jubilance was suppressed, and all I could muster was, “I cannot fathom… how lonely your childhood was.” The isolation must have been excruciating. You said, “Is this your card?” I heard, “Mommy, look! Mommy!” “Mommy! Mommy!” So, I’m, I’m gonna start this special, but what I’ve noticed with some of the-the specials I’ve seen of, of comedians that I really admire, they-they kinda start in medias res. So you don’t even hear the-the, the– In ninth grade, I learned in medias res. I think it means in the middle of things, but sounds much nicer. Anyhow, a lot of comedians are starting that way, and I think it’s, I think it’s kinda jazzy. So, like, the special might start with me going, “It’s kinda jazzy.” And then, there’s like mystery of the people who weren’t here, thinking, “I wonder– I wonder what I missed?”

♪ Into tomorrows and ♪

♪ Take it as it goes… ♪


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