Sal Vulcano: Terrified (2024) | Transcript

In his Chicago special, Sal Vulcano hilariously recounts quirky life stories, childhood fears, and critiques absurd societal norms and game shows, blending humor and insight.
Sal Vulcano: Terrified (2024)

In his comedy special set in Chicago, Sal Vulcano recounts his unforgettable experiences, from a couple attempting to “walk off” massive pizza consumption to a paranoid episode at a concert after mistakenly smoking hash. He critiques societal quirks, like the absurdity of the tooth fairy and the exaggerated dangers of moths and thunder. He shares a terrifying incident of helping his landlord search for an intruder, and his reflections on misleading childhood fears. The performance culminates in a playful yet pointed critique of game shows, urging the audience to disrupt unfair tactics if they ever find themselves on “The Price Is Right.”

Premiered May 31, 2024

* * *


Yeah, all right. I chose Chicago for the special because I love, I love Chicago. Matter of fact, I was here four years ago. I was out to get lunch and I had an experience here in Chicago that I have never been able to get rid of, really. I haven’t been able to shake it.

I was sitting next to a couple, a guy and a girl, two people. They ordered two large pizzas and they finished them. Two people, they ordered two large pizzas, and they finished all but a slice. Okay, you ever sit next to people having a conversation and you’re listening? The words coming out of their mouth are so ridiculous that you feel in your heart that you have to butt in on behalf of society.

At the end of this meal, the woman turned to her husband and said, “Hun, don’t even get the car, we’ll walk it off.” I was like, “Walk it off? I hope you live in Kalamazoo because crunching some numbers, carry the two, you need to get going. You two need to leave now.” Walk it off? I suggest a sensible shoe and a canteen because you have so far to walk. Walk it off? She’s talking about it like it was a charlie horse. I just watched you two eat 15 slices. A serving is one. I didn’t say that. I didn’t say any of that. I’ll tell you what happened: I stayed quiet, finished my whole pizza. I didn’t say I was walking it off, though. So, it probably still is with me, as a matter of fact.

As soon as she said that, I jumped on my phone. I had to. I Googled it. The average pizza: 3,200 calories. That’s without toppings. She had two. Let’s not even talk about those. You have to understand something. We walk 3 mph as human beings and in an hour we burn 160 calories, which means that the woman from Chicago would have had to walk for 20 hours. 20 hours or 60 miles. That’s the math. I’ve done it many times. I’ve been alive for decades, okay? I’ve lived in seven locations, they’ve all been within nine miles of each other. This woman has to walk the length of the Great Lakes because she wanted double sausage.

I have regretted not saying something to this woman so badly that I think of her in my regular life. For four years, I have thought of this woman from Chicago. I think about her in the shower, when I’m trying to fall asleep, you know, when I walk. And I flew into Chicago yesterday and I got like PTSD. I was like, “Chicago, the woman!” I am so obsessed that I didn’t say anything that this is where I’m at with this situation. Okay, if somebody invented time travel, I wouldn’t even use that to like go back and save a bunch of people. I’d go four years ago, Wicker Park in the pizzeria, and give this bitch these statistics. 1:18 p.m., I’d kick the pizzeria door but I’d excuse myself, “Miss, I’m from the future. Are you prepared to walk until around this time tomorrow?” “No?” “Well, then everybody in the pizzeria thinks you’re being very unreasonable.” Then I turn to myself, “You too, put it down. It doesn’t come off. I should walk more things off. I don’t walk, I don’t go out, I don’t leave my house anymore.”

I turned 30 years old in November 2006… and that’s where it fell off for me. This is how much I dread going out. Seriously. Recently, it was my best friend Mike’s birthday. We’ve been friends for 34 years. I still didn’t want to go out. Just to get me through the night of my best friend’s birthday, for the first time in my life, I took a 5-hour energy. You have experience? Yeah. This is how bad I didn’t want to go out. This is how much I dreaded it. I took two 5-hour energies. No, yeah, I don’t need to read the directions because I know that clearly means I get 10 consecutive hours of evenly distributed energy that should subside right around that last minute. I had 10 hours of energy. The second I swallowed, I basically did cocaine with vitamin B12. I would have punched a child if one came across me. I would punch a little boy right in his mouth and then asked him if he wants to start a crypto business. That’s how quickly I was out of my gourd, okay? I took 42,000% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin B12. I was like, “It’s my birthday now!”

We went out, we drank heavy on top of that. When it was time to come home, I’m responsible. I took an Uber home, and the Uber was a five-star ride, pristine. But when I got out of the Uber, I was so hopped up still on the energy and all the alcohol that I accidentally hit one star, and I hit submit. Let me finish. I’m neurotic as it is. He pulled away, I had a full meltdown. I was afraid I ruined this man’s life. I was like, “Oh my God, this guy’s going to get fired from his Uber.” I was thinking the worst. I was like, “He probably has a baker’s dozen worth of children. They all need braces, probably.” I sat down at 4:15 in the morning on the stoop of a home that I didn’t know who lived there. It wasn’t me. And I swear to you, these words came out of my mouth, “Oh my God, this guy’s kids.” And I realized in that moment, I’ll go in the app, you can write to them if you have an issue. So, ah, that’s what I did that night. I went into the app in that state of mind, in that condition, and I wrote to Uber to save this man and his children. I forgot about it. I found it in my phone four months later. I have the letter on me right now. I’m going to read this to you guys.

I need you to keep a few things in mind, okay? This is a combination of 600 minutes of energy, Tito’s handmade vodka, and autocorrect. Autocorrect does some of the heavy lifting here. It starts off like this: “To ubbs it may concern.” Next sentence: “Everything’s going great!” All caps, coming in hot on that second sentence, all caps, five exclamations. Why am I pissed off all of a sudden? What happened between the first and second sentence? It’s not like someone at Uber was like, “You know, sir, I’m sorry, it’s too late. We just got word his daughters are all selling their bodies.” Also, it’s 4:15 a.m. and I’m trying to reach a human up at the Uber office. So, it is not going great.

“Croutons.” That’s the next sentence. That’s the subject, the verb, and the predicate. Croutons. Fucking. Period. Croutons is what I told them. I said, “Croutons, croutons! I have a major emergency here. This guy’s kid’s teeth hang in the balance.” I told them, “Croutons, call a meeting, figure it out.” I thought about croutons. I thought about that sentence for a while too because, because, because what autocorrects to croutons? What the hell was I trying to say that the iPhone 11s was like, “No, no, no. Trust us. He means croutons. That’s what the boy means. Yes, we here at Apple believe the boy meant the cubes of bread you put in your salads and your soups.” That’s the end of the letter to Uber. If you’re paying attention, I didn’t even mention a star. This guy, this guy has 13 kids running around the city that can never smile with confidence.

To ubbs it may concern, everything’s going great. Tell your children I said you’re welcome. What did I even do there? That’s not adult behavior. I logged on to Uber corporate at 4:15 in the morning, told them my life was fantastic. I need one salad ingredient, and I pieced the fuck out, never to be heard from again. Because I told you, I found that in my phone four months later, I was mortified, switched to Lyft. Been using Lyft ever since. In my head, that is printed out and it’s taped to the wall in the Uber office. It must be. I feel like they use it for training purposes. “Hey, how you doing? Welcome to Uber. Two weeks paid vacation. Break room’s over there. Come here, tell us what the fuck you think it means croutons” There’s a large office prize. No, you laugh, but I could have helped those wonky tooth little bastards. I failed. I live with that. I feel bad about it, okay? Because you have to, when you’re in a situation where you could help children, you do it. Everyone knows that.

That’s a weird time to laugh. Weird. It’s weird. Feel like, do you want to just like, we’ll close our eyes, you leave so we don’t see you, so we don’t report thermometers? You. A couple weeks ago, my young niece, she didn’t feel well, and my sister took her temperature with a laser gun. Beep! You seen the laser gun? Beep! Yeah, you seen that? Yeah. Where was that technology in the ’70s? There was a planet full of children that could have used that technology in the ’70s. And I see young people in the audience and I don’t even know if you know what I’m talking about. I don’t know if you know what we went through, but when you sneezed or when you had the sniffles when I was little, they had to get up your ass very quickly. Nobody talks about that. I feel like it didn’t need to happen. No one talks about it. Let’s talk about it now. I don’t know why the common cold in the ’70s was so closely related to sodomy. I don’t know why my word to my mother that I didn’t feel well wasn’t good enough for her.

Like I said, when you sneezed in 1978, it got real weird real fast. I used to sneeze in the closet for fear of retaliation. Seriously, I was like, “You are never getting me. I will eat an apple every day and I will sneeze amongst these coats.” For the younger people, this is how it would go down. When I was younger, my mom would feel my forehead and be like, “He feels hot.” And then my dad would be like, “Yeah, but how hot? Hear me out, why don’t we stick this glass rod up his asshole and really get to the bottom of it?” At that point, you are doing more damage than the cold. The common cold goes away in 2-3 days. Forced penetration sticks around.

I feel like we needed one reasonable adult in the ’70s that could have changed the course of history for us. Just one to be like, “You know what? I felt his forehead. He feels warm. Good enough for me.” I swear to you, I felt like I had a gaggle of adults around me at all times like, “You need to penetrate this sick little boy now or we’ll never know if he needs a cough drop. Now bend the boy over, stick the mercury up his hole against his will, or how will we know if he needs plenty of liquids?”

I know some of you are saying, “What about under the tongue?” No, I was one of four, okay? I don’t know who was reamed prior, but you start with the hole, you stick with the hole. Under the tongue is no longer an option. It’s a glorious time for temperatures, so soak it up. Really, soak it up. Because one day, my children are not going to know what I went through. And I thought about it, and I do not think that is fair. So I will split the difference. I will take their temperature using the laser gun, but I will shove that up their f*cking ass.



And by the way, lasers existed in the ’70s. The technology was there. It didn’t have to happen. I realized that 40 years too late. As I got older, I realized so many things like that after the fact. I used to live with my older grandparents as a kid, and the main thing that I took away from living with old people all those years as a child is that I always thought that when I got older, moths would be a much bigger issue. My grandparents battled moths like their pensions were riding on it. Seriously, there were so many mothballs piled in my grandfather’s closet that I thought that when I got older, moths might be a legitimate hurdle that I was supposed to overcome in my life at some point. I thought they were to be feared. I prepared for moths like a doomsday prepper.

If you would have asked me back then, “What do you want out of life, Sal?” I would have been like, “What do I want? The same thing that you want. Go to school, get a good education, graduate, go to college, graduate from there, get a good job with a good salary, find a gal, settle down, have a couple kids, everybody’s healthy. Don’t get overtaken by the moths.”

How much of a problem were moths that balls needed to be invented? What was going on before the balls? Mayhem? People roaming the streets, glazed look on their face, tattered clothing like, “Don’t go in there, it’s a proper shit show and we don’t yet have a solution.” “Hey dude, I know you hate moths. Don’t worry, I invented balls.” “Cool bro, those kill moths now?” “No, you just store them in your closet. Your closet will smell like piss, and you won’t want to go in it anymore.” What even do they do? They don’t kill moths, they just smell like urinal cakes. What kind of business model is that? Honestly, at the end of the day, what’s worse? Someone being like, “Oh my God, Sal, you have a little hole in your lapel,” or, “Let’s make a run for it, here comes the human golden shower!” Just walk around smelling like piss. Give me the holes.

It also blows my mind that a moth’s food of choice is a shirt. Did you ever think about this? They eat clothes, and here’s where it gets tricky for me. Moths were around before clothes, so what did they eat then? And how god-awful was it that they were like, “Give me slacks.” I know nothing of moths, but there was one moth to be like, “Yo bro, I know you’re chomping on that lard that you love, but when you’re done, give me a shot. I got something that’s going to blow your balls off. It’s called the polo.”

I feared thermometers, I feared moths. Thunder. Thunder debilitated me as a kid, okay? My mom, when we had a bad storm, my mom used to have to talk me down from the thunder, and she’d say, “Honey, don’t worry about the thunder, that’s just God bowling.” You’ve heard that? Yeah, you’ve heard that. Why are you applauding that? Why would you applaud that? That’s a sack of [ __ ] lie right there. Why do we do that to children? Don’t lie to me. Tell me the truth about thunder. The truth isn’t bad, there’s no need for a cover-up. Just say, “It’s a cold front meeting a warm front. Boom boom, you got some thunder there.” You tell me it’s God bowling. I took that information to school, I got my ass handed to me. I walked into school that day like a confident meteorologist. I was like, “You guys are scared of this? That’s just God and his good-time pals. Tanya, calm down, that’s just Jesus engaging in light recreation. You should be less concerned about the thunder and more concerned that he’s up there taking a load off while you have Crohn’s.”

I’m going to shoot my kid straight. It’s the only way to go. I think it’s a terrible thing to do, to lie to them. Imagine explaining thunder to children in less fortunate areas or countries even like that, like a third world country. That would be insane. “Honey, I know you’re scared right now. We’re all scared. This is the likes of a storm we have never seen, and we are low on food and rations and medicines, and the village is washing away, and we haven’t seen your sister in quite some time, but don’t worry, that’s just God [ __ ] bowling. Don’t you dare trouble him with prayer right now, he’s a thunderbolt away from a turkey.”

“What is bowling, honey?” “Bowling is the thing that the rich countries do where people wear shoes made of the hides of animals, and they stand on polished wood, and they throw a marble sphere down an alley to knock down ivory pins only to pick them right back up.” “It doesn’t sound real.” “I know it is real, honey. God is what’s not real.”

Oh, I knew that would split the audience. [Applause] However, the joke is on you. I am religious. I say that to see where the pagans are. I see you, and I see you, and I saw you, so now I know. No, I was raised Catholic. I went to Catholic school from kindergarten to senior year of college. Yes, so I don’t believe. [Applause]

It’s not anything profound, it’s just that if you believe in heaven, you have to believe in hell. That’s the yin-yang. That’s the rule they set up. I don’t want to believe in hell, so I choose not to. [Laughter] God bowling. We will say anything to kids. We don’t even care if it sounds believable in the least. The tooth fairy. The whole concept of the tooth fairy is cuckoo bananas. It sounds like an acid trip. You know when I found out about the tooth fairy? The day I lost my first tooth. Not a year, not a month. They forgot to tell me. I found out the day I lost it. I’m six. I have to process this information by nightfall. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I was like, “Dad, let’s just get this out of the way. A woman is going to access the home this evening despite the locks to take a piece of my mouth, and you’re signing off?”

“Middle of the night, some no-name hussy is going to saunter in here while I’m eyeballs deep in a REM cycle? No name, by the way. No name. That’s not a red flag? She only goes by her job title? If I had someone walk up to me like, ‘Hey, I’m Stan. This is my wife, Regional Manager,’ I’d be suspect to Stan and Reggie right away.” I said, “Dad, why don’t we put it in the mailbox? Clean transaction, everybody wins.” He said, “She only flies here if it’s under the pillow.” I said, “She has wings? I need to call Jason.” Jason was my best friend at the time. I wanted to call him to warn him. What would I even say? “Jason, listen, there’s not a lot of time. A no-name floozy is coming for your teeth tonight, and the deadbolt don’t mean [ __ ].”

I said, “Dad, we don’t know this woman. What if she’s having a bad day? She comes in here and starts taking other body parts. Like, what if she got up on the wrong side of her cocoon and she comes in and just takes my kneecaps? Now I have no caps, Dad. Now I have no caps. Are they baby caps? Will I get these caps back? Dad, how much will I get for these caps?” I had extensive questions about the caps.

He said, “She’ll give you a dollar.” I said, “A dollar? Why didn’t you lead with that?” I was six. It was 1982. A dollar. I felt like Mark Cuban. I was like, “I’m going to buy a little league team with this money.” I would have gone to the playground like, “All your [ __ ] is getting gum today.” I said, “You know, let’s try to go to sleep. All right, a dollar.” So that was the motivation.

I went to sleep, fell asleep eventually, and I woke up sometime in the middle of the night. When I woke up, I was frozen, okay? And I started to inch my hand up my body slowly as to not make a big fuss because I don’t know what this woman is capable of. And I reached around my neck and I felt paper, and I pulled it out, and it was a dollar. And you would think from what I told you that I was happy. I felt extremely violated. I immediately went, “Help! She’s in the house!”

I heard my dad’s footsteps like he ran. He’s like, “What’s the matter?” I go, “She’s in the house! She may still be in this house!” I said, “Get my tooth back!” He couldn’t calm me down, hysterics. He had to take me out of my bed at 2:00 in the morning. He walked me down the hall to the kitchen, and he showed me right on the kitchen counter was an envelope. He opened it, and my tooth was in it. I believed in the tooth fairy for four hours. He still couldn’t calm me down, and I’m like, “No!” I’m just crying, I’m flailing. He’s like, “Look at me, stop.” He’s like, “Sal, I just showed you the tooth. You’re okay. I did that. I’m the tooth fairy. That’s your tooth. You don’t have to worry.”

You got to understand something, though. I was six years old, it was 2 a.m., and I was dealing with a lot of trauma. And I received that information not as “there is no such thing as the tooth fairy.” I thought that he was telling me that my father was the fairy. I went, “What do I call you now?” That’s how confused I was. I forgot about the fairy for a second, and my main concern was how shall I address this man going forward. Everyone thinks they’re so progressive. I was having the pronoun conversation 40 years ago, thank you very much.

I know now he’s not the fairy, he’s one of our helpers. [Laughter] Everything rattled me as a kid, okay? I was born in 1976, and for most of the rhythm of 1987, I was terrified that the rhythm was going to get me. You could talk amongst yourselves, you can explain it, I’ll wait. I’ll wait for you guys to just—if you don’t know what I’m talking about, there was a smash hit song in 1987 called “The Rhythm is Going to Get You.” It was by Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine. It’s a very aggressive song. My sister used to have the cassette tape and she used to play it over and over and over.

If you know the song, if you don’t know it, if you haven’t heard it, listen to it. Do me a favor, as soon as you leave here tonight, and I want you to listen to the lyrics because the lyrics are horrifying for a child. This is how the song goes: “At night,” already scary, “when you turn off all the lights, there’s no place that you can hide. The rhythm is going to get you.” The first time I heard that, I was like, “Yeah, what the [ __ ] did she just say? I’m not prepared.”

“In bed, throw the covers on your head and pretend like you are dead. The [ __ ] rhythm’s going to get you.” I don’t know if she said “[ __ ],” but she may as well have. Chicago, I felt [ __ ]: “No clue of what’s happening to you, but before this night is through, oh baby, the rhythm is going to get you.” Thank you. Thank you.

All right, and then the song continues as to taunt the child: “Rhythm is going to get you, rhythm is going to get you, rhythm is going to get you, the rhythm is going to get you.” I’m like, “When is this happening?” The song’s like, “Tonight!” I’m like, “Yo, tonight? Like in a little while? Sundown?” “It’s the rhythm here.”

Two biggest things I was afraid of in 1987: Freddy Krueger and the rhythm. Freddy Krueger is a murdering child molester burnt head to toe to a crisp. He has knives for fingers. He comes back in your dreams to kill you and your loved ones. You can’t escape him. I was afraid of that man and the rhythm. I used to kiss my mom goodnight when I was little, and for like six months in 1987, I’d be like, “Mom, I love you. I hope you sleep well. Also though, might tonight be the night that the rhythm gets into the house and gets me specifically?” I give a [ __ ] about my sister. [ __ ] that [ __ ]. She wants to play the tape over and over and summon the rhythm to our home. I was like, “Rhythm, do me a favor. You come to our house, go down the hall, make a hard right. She’s a toothless brunette underneath the Hello Kitty sheets with a death wish. I want no part of this.”

Again, my mom used to have to talk me down from it, and she used to tell me, “Honey, don’t worry about the rhythm. It’s not coming for you. It’s coming for all of us.” She doesn’t do things the right way. No, no, she was like, “Honey, don’t worry about the rhythm. It’s a phrase, and when you get older, you will understand. But I promise you, you are in no immediate danger.” And that’s all I needed. I trusted my mom. That was fine. Put that to bed for me. Until the day that this woman used the rhythm against me.

Me and my sister are fighting one day. My mom’s like, “Guys, cut it out. Guys, I’m not going to say it again.” And then she just went, “All right, that’s it.” And she turned in one motion and swiped the phone off the wall. And she went, “Hello, the rhythm’s on the phone.” Maybe don’t laugh at that. That’s terrorism. You know, that’s straight-up domestic T. I was a smartass when I was little, and I was like, “How is the rhythm on the phone? The phone didn’t ring.”

A couple of months later, there we were fighting again, and we were getting into it, and my mom was like, “Guys, cut it out.” And she said, “Guys, don’t make me say it again.” And then she went, “Okay, fine,” which I think is even scarier. She walked to the wall like she had all the time in the world, and she just picked up the phone, and she looked at me, and she dialed numbers, and she waited, and she went, “Hello? Yes, this is Adele. No, he has not listened to me today at all. Yeah, he’s standing right here. Oh sure, thank you so much.” And she puts the phone to me. I took a deep breath, released some urine. I took a step toward the phone, put it in my hand, put it to my head, my hand was trembling like this, and I went, “Hello? Who is this?” And the voice on the other line said, “This is the rhythm.”

No, that is very wrong. You don’t do that to a child. My mother should be in jail. Straight-up penitentiary for that woman. You don’t do that to a boy. That affected me deeply. How deeply? It happened when I was 11. I’m 47, in Chicago, and we’re talking about it.

So I was a terrified kid. I became a terrified adult. I am terrified right now. I’ll tell you about one of the most frightening things that happened to me in my adult life. I used to live in this little studio basement apartment underneath like a townhouse, and one day I was sleeping, deep sleep, all the lights pitch black, and I heard a pounding at the door. And you know, you know you can tell when something is an emergency. I heard like [knocking] and in one motion, I left from a deep sleep to my feet, and I was like, “Hello?” My heart was beating out of my chest. And I heard, “Sal, it’s Dave. Open the door.”

Dave was my landlord. He’s the guy that lived upstairs from me at the time. He was a big Irish dude, a New York City detective. I stumbled in the dark to the door, cracked it open just enough for the light to seep in. I squinted, “What’s up?”

“Did you hear anything?” he asked urgently.

“No,” I replied. “What’s up?”

“You didn’t hear anything?” he pressed.

“No, what’s going on?”

He explained, “I just got home. My door upstairs is off the hinges. Somebody broke into my house and I think they’re still in there. Let’s go.”

Hold on a second. I pay you rent, and now I’m drafted into this? Your tenant? I’m a straight-up civilian. He didn’t even wait for a response; he walked away like I was automatically enlisted.

So, I threw on my terry cloth bathrobe and house slippers—prime combat attire, I suppose—and followed him to the front of the house. Sure enough, I saw the door hanging precariously off the middle hinge. It was chilling. For a fleeting moment, I thought, “Oh, we sure this isn’t the Tooth Fairy?” I didn’t want him to go in there and shoot my father.

We’re standing there, and in a moment of sheer intensity, he reaches into his jacket, pulls out a gun, and cocks it. Now, I know you guys are from here, but I’m from there. I’m not used to seeing a gun right in front of my face, let alone cocked and ready. With a serious face, he says to me, “I’m going to go inside and secure the first floor. You get my back.”

And I said, “I’m your guy.” I don’t know why I said that. I’m not his guy. I’m nobody’s guy. I’m barely a guy.

He goes in, methodically, technically. It’s like something out of a TV show. He’s sweeping the rooms, moving with precision. I’m standing there like an extra waiting for my cue, head to toe in South Park pajamas, terry cloth bathrobe. The only thing I can do is mimic him. He’d say, “Kitchen’s clear,” and I’d echo, “My kitchen’s clear.” “Closet’s clear,” I’d follow with, “All clear in the closet.”

He comes up to me and says, “I’ve canvassed the first floor. We’re good down here. Now you and I have to go upstairs.” And for some reason, I repeated, “Still your guy.”

We start ascending the steps, and the tension is palpable. He’s stone-faced, ready to act, making not a single creek on the steps. I’m right behind him, mimicking every move, head to toe in South Park pajamas and terry cloth bathrobe. I even felt compelled to do this [mimics holding an invisible gun] with my hand, thinking maybe the robber would believe I had a weapon too.

We reach the top of the steps. Three doors. Two are open—one’s a half bath, the other’s a spare bedroom. One door is closed, meaning if anyone is in the house, they’re behind that door. Everything is going to happen right now.

I know we’re laughing, but I want you to appreciate the gravity. Try to put yourself in my slippers. I’ve been awake for 70 seconds, and now I could get shot. Dave starts doing hand signals, intricate ones. I’m like, “Why would you believe that I can interpret this? Can we please go downstairs and whisper about it?”

Before I can communicate that I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, he kicks his own door open, it flies back, and he rushes in with his gun drawn. A surge of adrenaline coursed through me. I felt something come up my toes and out the top of my head, and I involuntarily yelled, “Pow pow!”


Pow pow! I made the sound of a gun from cartoons. That’s how I helped that man. An onomatopoeia. He didn’t get shot, but could you imagine? If he had, and the footage was on the news: “Local [ __ ] shot dead making gun sounds.” I’d be on camera, “Yes, I said pow pow. There was nobody in there.”

Dave didn’t turn around for ten seconds. His back was shaking with silent laughter. Finally, he turned and just said, “Pow pow.” I was like, “Dave, I did all that I could.”

Two weeks later, he raised my rent by $50.

Amsterdam—that was scary, but it was nothing compared to the hands-down worst experience of my life. The worst night of my life. I was in Amsterdam with my girlfriend on vacation a few years back. We came out of the Van Gogh Museum, it was getting dark, and we had no plans. “What are we going to do tonight?” we wondered. By chance, across the street was the Amsterdam Royal Concert Hall. A beautiful old landmark venue. The marquee read, “Tonight only: the Amsterdam Symphony Orchestra with guest vocalist Rufus Wainwright.” I’d heard his name, didn’t know much about him, but I knew he was some virtuoso. “Look at this,” I said. “A specific night in Amsterdam, that’s what we’re going to do.”

We ran across the street, bought two tickets right before it started. My girlfriend says, “Hun, we’re in Amsterdam. Why don’t we smoke a little marijuana before we go in? It’ll be that much more fun.” I wasn’t a regular smoker at the time. I was hesitant. “I don’t know.”

“When will there be a more perfect time?” she insisted.

“Okay, I’ll be a team player.” She runs across the street, buys it, comes back, and hands me a baggie. I take it out, light it, and take two of the biggest hits I’ve ever taken in my entire life. Immediately, I knew something was very wrong.

She goes, “Oh my God, your face is pale white.”

“I know,” I replied.

“Is there an issue?”

“A big one.”

“What’s the matter?”

“I can’t feel my arms.”

“You’re just high.”

“No, I’ve been high before in my life. This does not feel like that. I’m telling you, believe me, something’s very wrong.”

I looked down at the baggie I was holding. It said hash. I didn’t know what hash was, but I smoked that [ __ ]. I smoke so much hash. I don’t even know what it is. I know what a hash brown is, but it wasn’t a hash brown because it was after 11:00 a.m.

She said, “I think we should go inside.”

“Really? I think we should book a flight and fly home tonight.”

“No, let’s go inside. You’re just high. I’ll take care of you, I promise.”

She took my hand like she was my sponsor and led me in. We get inside, and in the vestibule, they handed out hot wine. Hot wine? I never heard of hot wine before. I slammed two. She’s not looking out for me. Ten feet away is the door to the actual theater. We walk in, and I look up, “We made a mistake.”

It’s gorgeous in there. Crystal chandeliers, gold leaf everywhere, velvet seats, 1,700 people in tuxes and gowns. Your boy was in shorts, flip-flops, and a fanny pack. I was a tourist that day. “I can’t do this. I’m mortified.”

“When the lights go down and we’re sitting in our seats, nobody will notice.”

I said, “Really? Because I think we should book a flight and fly home tonight.”

We take our seats. “Excuse me, excuse me,” I mutter, finding our row. I turn, and the second my ass hits the velvet, “We need to leave now.”

Let me explain something to you guys. This was hands-down the scariest, worst experience of my entire life. Nothing was funny about it. It was traumatic. The only way I could explain how I felt was like I was having a million thoughts at once, couldn’t process any of it, didn’t understand what was real or not, and felt like I was going crazy and drowning and suffocating in my own thoughts.

I turned to her, “We need to leave now.”


“Because everybody in here is trying to kill me.”


“Everybody in here wants me dead.”

She starts laughing. Do you know how infuriating it is when you think 1,700 people are targeting you and the one person you’re with is having a chuckle? “Why are you laughing?”

“Because it’s funny.”

“It’s funny? I’m telling you a courtesy. In a couple of seconds, I’m going to stand up, scream at the top of my lungs, and run away. I’m telling you as a courtesy.” I kept saying that over and over.

“You’re not going to do that.”

“Yes, I am. And I’ll tell you another thing. A woman in a wheelchair has situated herself in the aisle we just came down. She’s blocking it, and I’m not going to die. If I have to get past her, something may happen between me and her.”


“It’s either her or me.”

“You’re not going to touch that woman.”

“Yes, I am. I’ve already made peace with it.”

At that moment, the lights went down, the symphony came out with Rufus, and they started the concert. I was stuck there. His voice was otherworldly, angelic. I immediately started crying, hard. My throat started to close up, constrict, get coarse, and it started to hurt. I couldn’t swallow, my tongue felt like sandpaper.

“They poisoned me.”

“Who do you think poisoned you?”

“These people.”

“How do you think they poisoned you?”

“The hot wine.”

“Babe, I had the hot wine.”

“You’re next.”

I was processing real grief. She said, “Babe, you probably have dry mouth. Why don’t you go in your fanny pack and get yourself a Ricola?” I carry them. So I look down at my fanny pack, which a moment ago was at my feet, but now, my fanny pack was probably 650 feet down. I’m just staring at it for a minute, like, “How am I supposed to get down there? I’m only a man. This is a 10 to 15-man job with a ladder.”

It took minutes, but finally, I had an idea. I reached and threw my hand down, watching my arm extend 650 feet. It took 11 minutes. I was watching the concert like this. Finally, I got down there, grasped it, and now I had to come back up—double the time. I got the fanny pack up here, took out a Ricola, and it’s individually wrapped. This posed another problem. I’m holding it right here, looking at it like, “How am I supposed to penetrate this military-grade wrapper?” I’m dying. I need this lemon lozenge.

After minutes, I decided, “You know what? In order to unwrap it, I’m going to have to unwrap it.” So I go to unwrap it, and it sounds like this: [crinkling noise]. I freaked out. “There’s no way this came from my Ricola wrapper.” I looked around; no one was looking at me. So I had to do it again because I was almost a goner. I went to unwrap it again, slowly, [crinkling noise], and I went, “Everybody mad.”

My girlfriend said, “What?”

“Everybody here mad.”

“What are you talking about? Why?”

“On account of my Ricola.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

In that moment, from the stage, Rufus Wainwright finished singing his first song. It’s been about four minutes, and he addressed the audience for the very first time with his non-singing voice. He goes like this, “Hello, Amsterdam,” and I was like, “What is going on?” His singing voice didn’t match his regular voice, and I did not have the mental capacity or fortitude to understand that in that moment, and I freaked out.

I turned to the old man next to me, who had white hair and blue eyes, and went, “Is he gay?” He is gay. He’s a famous, out gay man. Everybody in the theater knew that but me. The old man knew it, so he shot me a look like I was a lunatic. It freaked me out. “Am I gay?” I asked the old man if I was gay.

I know some of you are like, “You didn’t ask him if you were gay.” Yes, I did. I smoked hash. I promise you, Chicago, in that moment, I did not know who was gay. As I was asking him in my head, I looked to the stage, and Rufus Wainwright went, “Ricola!” I turned to my girlfriend, “That must be a code word. We have to leave now.”

“It’s the first song. I’m not leaving.”

“I will always love you. Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me,” I said, getting to the aisle. I saw that woman in the wheelchair and started running to her. I knew I wasn’t going to get past her, so right before I magically pumped the brakes, I went, “Move!”

She went, “Huh?”

I went, “Huh!” and threw my Ricola at her, hitting her right off the left tit. I burst through the doors of the theater. Outside, hyperventilating, 30 seconds later, my girlfriend comes out.

“Take me to the hospital.”

“Calm down.”

“No, I told you I was very unsettled.”

“Take this water and drink it. Let the cold air hit your face for two minutes. If you still feel this way in two minutes, I promise you it’s on me and I will take you to the hospital.”


“Why don’t you go in your fanny pack and get yourself a Ricola?”

I go in my fanny pack. There was none. There never was. What was in my fanny pack? Little totes umbrella, couple of room keys, and condoms.

Fine, Chicago, fine, but you all understand this means that odds are high that I threw a condom at the woman in the wheelchair. I was feverishly trying to open a condom during this man’s performance while asking the old man next to me, “Sir, who is gay? Am I gay? Is he gay? I need to know right away who is gay.”


You guys are amazing, man. Wow. Thank you so much. Thank you, guys. I love my job. I’m so happy to be here. I feel so lucky to be here, really. I love you. Thank you, guys.

I will say there are some of the greatest comedians in the world that get on this stage every night and tackle very edgy, way more controversial subjects, night after night, with no safety net, for better or for worse, knowing that these days it could be risky to their careers. It’s not easy. It’s not easy to get up here and take really big swings at very touchy subjects and make it funny. It’s a really important thing, and I just want to give it up for those comedians that come on the stage every night and do that. Yeah, for real.

But I’m not that guy. I’m more of a silly goose, you know? Come to my show, I tell you stories about my life. We go outside, I push you into the bushes, we all go home. But I do have controversial opinions. I just never bring them to the stage. But this is my special, and even more so, this is Chicago, and I couldn’t ask for more from you guys. So if you guys are cool with it, if you’re cool with it, I’d like to get into some serious [ __ ] right now. Yeah? Yes?

All right, let me just say this: This is not in my wheelhouse, so I have to preface it with this. If I say something that offends one of you and you feel you need to leave, leave. And I do not say that contentiously. I say it genuinely, supportively. I would do the same. You shouldn’t listen to anything you don’t want to. I respect it, I promise you. I would even help you get your money back. But all I’m saying is if somebody else is enjoying it, let’s not police each other and tell each other what we can and can’t enjoy. Is that fair, Chicago?

Continental breakfast is a real piece of [ __ ]. Yeah, it is. Okay, if you need to leave, leave, because it’s way more continental than it is breakfast. And I don’t even know what continental means, but it has never not failed to disappoint me. You ever check into a hotel, and they’re like, “There’s free breakfast down here in the morning.” I’m like, “Oh my God, yes.” They’re like, “It’s continental.” I’m like, “I hope you and your family get into a car accident.” Because all it is, is Earl Grey tea. Don’t you put me on the elevator at 7:00 a.m. for Earl Grey. If you need to leave, leave. I’m going to keep hitting you with the hard-hitting topics other comics will not touch.

Radio Shack closed down. I’m fine with it. Yeah. I’m sorry if I’m offending, but this is how you start a dialogue. You think the woman from Chicago stuck with me? I had an experience in a Shack 10 years ago. Ten years ago, I walked into a Shack. There was nobody in there, a ghost town. I walk in, there’s one worker behind the counter. Are you getting what I’m saying? I walked into the structure, I doubled the amount of people. I make a beeline to the register. “Excuse me, miss, do you have CD-ROMs?” She looked me in the face and went, “CD-ROMs?” I was like, “Who the [ __ ] are you talking to? Are you making fun of me to my face to no one? This CD-ROM purchase is going to keep the lights on in here.” Two years later, they went out of business. I don’t think it’s a coincidence. If you need to leave, leave.

No, no, no, no, no. I’m just getting warmed up. I got a Family Feud, Price is Right bone to pick with all of you. Yeah. You thought you were safe? You’re not, because you’re all guilty of something. I really, I really, I really have had enough of it, okay? And this is what you guys do, and don’t tell me you don’t. You just all go about your lives, walking around every day, and you all agree to act like the first two rounds of Family Feud actually mean something. They don’t. Everyone knows the third round is triple points for all the marbles. Nothing matters in the first two rounds, okay? If you can’t take this heat, I’m sorry, but you know it’s true. Your family can win the Feud without answering one single correct question, as long as you steal the very last question. What kind of snake oil [ __ ] is that?

You don’t even have to watch Family Feud. You could tune in with one minute left and see all you need to see. Steve Harvey asks the grandmother, June, “Name a food that has the word cheese in it.” June’s like, “Cheesecake.” Ding! Cheesecake! And now the Calhouns are going home with 5K they don’t deserve. Yes, the grandmother’s name is June Calhoun. Get over it. Would anyone like their money back? Suck it. I lied. Yeah, I will get them.

Thank you so much. I’ll tell you another thing I don’t like about Family Feud: the celebration by these families at the end of the Fast Money round. It doesn’t match the winnings. The families need to tone down the showboating right away. We’ve got game shows giving away millions. This damn show has had the same prize for 20-23 years. I looked it up, it’s $20,000 split among five grown adults, taxed, less hotel and airfare. These families are coming on the Feud, they’re dominating, everybody’s losing their minds, women are up there kicking their heels off, guys are flicking each other in the nuts, Steve Harvey’s doing the Dougie for $19,900.

While we’re on the topic of game shows, The Price Is Right. I don’t like the $1 nonsense. Play the game the way the game was meant to be played. Don’t cheat. Thanks. I’ll tell you what I don’t like even more than that, even more: this 600, 601 [ __ ] [Applause]. You, 630. How about letting this woman have her washer-dryer combination? I’m already homesick from work, I don’t need this. I want to make a pact with you right now. I want to bond all of us in this room right now, okay? And I’m dead serious. I am dead serious. Listen to me because I’m looking at you guys right in your face. I see all of you. I see you. I’m looking you right in the balls.

There is enough of us in here that odds are maybe one day, Jesus blesses one of us, and we become a contestant on The Price Is Right. If one of you ever, ever becomes a contestant on The Price Is Right, and somebody 601’s someone, you 602 that person. Thank you, Chicago. I love you. Thank you so much. Thank you, guys.

Credits. Thank you. I’ll always remember that. [Applause] [Music] [Applause] [Music] [Applause] [Music]


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read More

Marlon Wayans: Good Grief (2024)

Marlon Wayans: Good Grief (2024) | Transcript

Taped at the iconic Apollo Theater, Wayans comedically explores grief after losing his parents. He reflects on his father’s lessons, joining the “Dead Mama Club,” changing aging parents’ diapers, and who’s the funniest Wayans.

Access Our Archive
of Stand-Up Transcripts

Weekly Magazine

Get the best articles once a week directly to your inbox!