Buying a Car? It’s 2022: Time to go electric. Here’s why …

Your new $50K gas-driven-fuel-injected-turbo-off-road monster truck will have little-to-no resale value in ten years – It’s already obsolete. Never mind the damage to the environment, our lungs, and our ears – I’m making this appeal to your wallet, because I’m tired of waiting for public ‘enlightenment’. It’s simple math: By 2025 the presence and practicality of EV’s will run the market.

Here are the facts:
• The electric motor is 90% energy efficient. Your gas engine is about 30% efficient (it loses 70% through heat and friction)
• The electric vehicle (EV) has 20 moving parts. The conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) has over 2000 (guess who calls Triple-A first).
• The EV is cheaper to operate.
• Car dealerships have been slow to sell you an EV (partly) because EV’s require such little service – Service is where dealers make almost 50% of their money.
• Battery tech is moving forward quickly, shortening charge time and bringing prices down. (And hey, battery’s are recyclable – gas goes up in smoke.)

In 2015 I took the leap and got my first simple 80-mile-range EV. I’ve absolutely loved it, and thought, ‘why doesn’t everyone know about this?!’ So I became an EV missionary and put a sign on the back: “… It will never need smog checks, oil changes, or transmission repairs. There are no pistons, valves, belts, or flywheels. Also, it doesn’t stink, and the only noise is my mouth.” (I liked pulling in front of loud muscle-cars : )

I should add, you can save your misinformed fossil industry fueled arguments about the ‘true cost’ of lithium, or that our electric grid runs on coal. Or that the ‘eco footprint’ of the EV is so terrible. The EV is nothing compared to your gas-sucking SUV. And if you think your ‘hybrid’ vehicle affords you absolution, just know that you’re still on Darwin’s climate-change off-ramp.

One much overlooked aspect of the EV is that it makes virtually no noise. When the big EV shift finally sinks in, nobody will be more thankful than those who live and sleep near highways, hills and impromptu drag strips.
The Rube Goldberg device we call the internal combustion engine is done, and I say good riddance. Enjoy the QUIET.


2020 vision – Best Life ideas

This is my battery electric car …

• EV’s (Electric Vehicles) – This one is a slam dunk. EV’s are cleaner, faster, quieter, cheaper, and long overdue. You can run them on sunshine. Jesus, why in fuck are you still driving an 8MPG army assault vehicle when there’s no mud for a hundred miles…


• Plant Based Diets – Why do chimps know this and not you? We share 99% of their DNA, and some smaller piece of common sense. Plant foods: Greens, nuts n beans – Medically-proven-healther.

• Composting toilets – Hilarious, the way we use perfectly clean drinking water and flush our shit through miles of pipes, filter and treat it, then dump it at sea. The circle of life hits a cul de sac.

Let’s go poop in a bucket.

The Malibu Theme Park

(Published in “Surfer Magazine”, November 1997)

Twenty yards out a dark fin broke the surface. I couldn’t see what it was, but it was moving some water, and heading right for me. Then it submerged.

It was bad enough that I had to resort to night surfing in my quest for some solitude at Malibu. Shooting stars and police searchlights are hardly what comes to mind when you think of a summer surf session, but with all the flat spells and fog, I was beginning to wonder if summer still made a stop here at all. Now I’d missed the last wave of the set, and listening to my friends’ hoots fading towards the beach, sitting alone gaping down into the cool blackness, awaiting a glint of teeth, I tried to remember one very important detail of local ichthyology: Does Malibu have sharks?

The Chumash Indians called the area Humaliwu, meaning “the surf sounds loudly”. Early settlers bent the pronunciation into Malibu, which – during the long dry summers anyway – has come to mean something like “burning real estate”.

These days the best way to find it is to hook a left at the Jack-in-the-Box. It’s the area where the hillsides move and the traffic doesn’t. Actually, given its legendary status, it’s odd that the place isn’t better marked.

I recently played host to a young girl from France who’d spent the summer in Los Angeles doing the whole HollywaxlostworldUniversalberryfarmdisney tar pit thing, and on her last day in the U.S., she was determined to see “Maw-lee-boo”.

So I took here there. Why? Because despite all the runaway development, the pollution and the stuffy millionaire neighbors, Malibu still stands as the summer icon: The international symbol of the whole California surfing movement. And, well, because we couldn’t find parking down at the set of Baywatch.

As we sat on the beach I tried to explain to her why these waves were so special: the way they zippered down the point for hundreds of yards. She seemed more interested in the world-class hard bodies on the sand. And as I took in the scent of Bain du Soleil and admired a few rib-rockets myself, I wondered how many other tourists come and stand here with a Minnesota blindness to the perfect lines peeling in front of them, then turn and trudge back to the car in their big clunky shoes, annoyed by all the … ssaand, and morbidly depressed that they didn’t see Annette or Moondoggie.

This stretch of coast, after all, never did offer much as a tourist attraction: no sprawling vistas, no gift shops. Not even a photogenic landmark. Without the appreciation and wave radar that comes with years of stoke, one might dismiss the whole area in a fleeting PCH drive-by, stammering, “Hey, you guys, that was a beach.” Still, if you’re wearing a $170 strip of lycra, this is a good place to swing it.

On typical summer days, Second and Third points get overrun in a feeding frenzy unparalleled at other breaks. To visit Third on a good swell is a study in mob surfing: the predators, the prey, the shouting, the inevitable crack of boards slamming together, and the onlookers’ mischievous snickers.

Many find it’s worth the fight, as there is probably no faster wave anywhere in L.A. county. In a frantic three hour session, you may only get one to yourself, flying through the obstacle course, trying to make the connection, hurling body and board over sections and around painfully slow paddlers. At five people per wave, there are usually another ten who sit watching the mayhem from the shoulder without so much as a taste. I call them the conscientious objectors.

Eventually they’ll meander through Second and into First Point, where a 6’0” Zuma Jay is no match for the 10-foot cruisers driven by a parade of Forrest Gumps (“that’s ma boat”). But there’s a distinct change in the vibe at First, where even the waves seem to shake off the testosterone of Third Point. It’s that solemn confidence that comes with maturity, like, “I’m not gonna scream at you: I’ll just quietly run your ass over.”

The people in the lineup are almost as much fun to watch as the wave is to ride. They are a microcosm of L.A. itself: young, old, imported, rebels, punks, endangered species, godlike masters, and a whole bunch of Chris Farleys. The ‘Bu holds the largest collection of graceful fat guys you’ll ever find.

Sadly, beneath all that clutter there’s still a beautiful wave, more neatly groomed and consistent in shape than almost any other in the state. But there’s no other evidence that you’re standing on surfing’s hallowed ground. It’s just a perfect wave in a billion-dollar neighborhood. The neglect it suffers stems from one primary thing: It doesn’t turn a profit. If it did, there might be a sign, a plaque, or a statue. They might fix the contamination, and even that nasty little end section at First Point.

Until then, the next caretakers may well be the new crop of 12-year-old kids snatching up the lightweight noserider reissues, injecting youthful exuberance to a spot that’s seen it all.

It’s hard to complete with a kid on a paddling machine, and that’s what drove me to my night session. Night surfing, even with the blind takeoffs, creepy entangling kelp, and the occasional duck dive into a school of squirming grunion, is the best way to go back in time.

So there I sat, fearing a shark fin that turned out to be a dolphin, the guys laughing that I had pulled my feet up onto my sunken 5’11.

It may be that the “Malibu summer” that tourists come looking for exists only in the old Gidget movies, and like the feisty drunken flirt across the bar, some things are better left to the imagination. So they’ll go back to their affordable homes and talk about L.A., and that trip to the ‘Bu will probably get lost among the stories about meeting John Mellencamp at the Hard Rock and that crazy screaming ride at Magic Mountain.

As for the rest of us, the Malibu summer arrived as it always has. And with that first big south, we’ll be getting a few crazy screaming rides of our own. – Jaz Kaner


“Back when Surfing Naked was called ‘Streaking’”

Me and John Chang Fai Tong, fiddlin’ around.

Nudity, to me, has got to be the best weapon any prankster can have. It’s shocking, funny, and a tidy backhand shot at Puritan ethics. That’s why I was eager to play a part in the ‘70’s “streaking” craze.

It was during those few weeks in the spring of 1974 that the Academy Awards were flashed, meetings were interrupted, and naked students sprinted across college campuses while Ray Stevens shouted from the radio, “Ethel,…put yer clothes on!”. The media had a field day.   (My personal favorite was the story about a naked guy who was arrested inside the Honolulu capital building claiming he was “the Streaker of the House”.)

Even so, a naked surfer in Honolulu would have gone almost unnoticed, as there aren’t many good vantage points — not much of an audience a half-mile out on the reef. But the break at Kewalo Basin – scene of the crime – peels within a convenient moon-shot of one very commercial harbor entrance.

I’ve never been impressed with the spot. In surfer lingo, the wave is usually one of those jack n’ run takeoffs followed by a bunch of cutbacks. We called it Kewalo’s Lefts, or The Point (it’s not a point at all). As a kid, my mother once took me on one of the small boat tours, and they called the place Shark Hole. I remember the actual spiel; “Our surfers don’t bother our sharks, and our sharks don’t bother our surfers.” Very Zen.

Sherwood graduated from Roosevelt High School with the rest of us, and got a captain’s apprenticeship position on one of those big tour boats. His new gig gave him the captain’s eye view of the Kewalos Left, and on any given pass, he could name everyone in the line-up: Tommy, Lance, Pee-Wee, Brian, Kaui, Oshiro…

On this day though, the place was deserted. You could smell the salt air and the tuna cannery all the way up Ward Avenue. “Agh,…get Kona winds,” Jerry mumbled with a disappointed gaze out my car window. We rolled into the empty parking lot and watched a sloppy two foot set getting shoved over the reef with the onshore wind.

From his usual slouch in the back seat, Fai chimed in, “Well,… nothing else to do, eh?” So we unloaded the longboards (we called ’em tankers) and walked out to the jetty. After clearing the Man-o-War and other flotsam around the rocks, we jumped in and paddled out.

There were no other surfers to impress, so we kept busy clowning for each other with spinners and headstands. Except Fai; he never strayed much from his karate pose. Jerry and I laughed and taunted him from the shoulder with Bruce Lee chicken-squawks. The rest of the time Jerry was singing that ‘Tootsie-roll soul and little white shoes’ thing in his loudest falsetto.

Jerry and Fai caught a wave together and lost their boards trying to do a jump switch. I sat alone outside, taking in diesel exhaust from the passing tuna boats. It was then that I noticed the big Adventure V tour cruiser approaching from outside and making its turn toward the harbor. This ship was the queen of the fleet. There were four hundred fifty people packed onto its two decks, and they were having a dreadful, rainy, kona weather Hawaiian vacation. Perhaps this moment was tied to my fate, or maybe it was something we’d smoked in the parking lot, but I knew just what they needed. I quickly slipped off of my board, yanked off my baggies, and pulled them over my head around my neck.

Then, like a true showman, I waited. I waited for the wave that ran right along next to this baby. I spun around and paddled for it.

I jumped to my feet and grabbed the rail around the first section, thinking how stupid I’d look if I blew the takeoff. I cut back, straightened off a bit so that I was bare-butt to the crowd, and arched my skinny frame into a Greek god pose. Now I could hear growing hoots and hollers coming from the ship. I switched stance to face the crowd, strategically covering the jewels with my hands, and switched back for another full shot of my white ‘okole, then started striking every goofy pose that popped into my head: the Olga Korbut, mighty Atlas, and the ever-popular stinkbug.

Jerry and Fai were paddling out hooting and laughing. Jerry got right into the spirit, pulled his shorts off and stood up on his board, giving the crowd the Hawaiian full-monty.

Now the ship was really going nuts. They were screaming and whistling, flashcubes were going off. (I was told later that the group was like ninety percent women, and the captain had to counter-steer because everyone ran to one side of the boat).

As my wave petered out on the inside, I finished my routine with a one legged Quasimoto and a belly-flop, costing me a few points on the dismount, but it’s shallow in there and I sure didn’t need a crotch full of wana. When I came up, the hollering and applause was louder than ever. The ship was blowing it’s horn.

These people had seen two weeks of streaking stories from all over the country, all over the news, and now there we were – like spotting BigFoot.

As I paddled back out, my embarrassment was starting to sink in. All I could do was wave and smile like an idiot. Fai was laughing and shaking his head, saying, “You guys nuts, brah!”

It was about that moment, according to Sherwood, as the ship faded into the harbor, and as tourists glanced down to see how many pictures were left on their Instamatics, that the captain turned with a sly smile and asked, “Hey ‘Woods’, ..were those friends of yours?”     “Uhhh,…nooooo sir.”


About the author – Jaz Kaner (aka Jim Shawhan) grew up surfing in Honolulu and worked as a professional comedian. This event stands as his best exposure to date.

More Worst Shows

My Worst Show EverJaz Kaner
Pain plus Time = comedy. That’s why, years later, I find humor in these “I survived” stories.
In the early 1990’s, for three straight years I performed Christmas/New Years week at Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan. The shows paid well, but venues got progressively worse, and being the whore that I am, kept going back. My ego was running dry along with my few TV credits.

Each trip involved a series of 5 or 6 shows at various locations around the base, you know, any place they could plug-in a comedian. My last year there, I shared the bill with a Canadian balloon act named “Kernel Popcorn”. An older guy, he wore a yellow ‘officer’ outfit with buttons made of popcorn. I had fun ribbing him, but unlike me, Kernel Popcorn had no illusions about his place in showbiz.

Amongst the logistical stupidity that week, we did a Sunday morning brunch show at the Officers Club – kids dressed in their best church clothes. Then another at an empty theater, just the two janitors in the audience. I guess someone at the activities desk had forgotten to hang the crayon posters.

But the real funeral was at the Enlisted Men’s club. The balloon act was given a reprieve. I carried my stuff into a room blasting death metal, and made my way thru shaven heads to the DJ booth. I tried to explain over the noise who I was. Shortly later, he stopped the music – getting an uproar from the crowd. He attempted an intro over the shouts and handed me the mic, saying ‘Good luck’.

The booing reached a peak as I hit center stage, smiling, arms uplifted like a prize fighter, basking in the hate. I knew it wasn’t personal; I was just a guy interrupting their beer and musical brain-fuck. Throughout my ‘opening’ there was a guy shouting FUCK YOU at the top of his lungs.
I tried the therapist angle, shouting, “Go ahead, let it all out”, and “Feel the LOVE”, then went right to ‘A’ material. Nope. Then I walked into the crowd channeling Don Rickles. That stuff works much better when people are listening. I tried a faith healing on the ‘fuck you’ guy.
I went a couple rounds and left the stage to boo’s and the mob singing, ‘Na na hey hey Good-Bye now’.

I walked past Kernal Popcorn and he was smiling.

Generation X-Files: My All-Time Worst College Shows

1909 well traveled words

First published in Drama-Logue, April 1998

Generation X-Files: My All-Time Worst College Shows

       Based on my years as class clown at colleges all over America, one could conclude that, at an audience level, I’ve seen the future.   And I’m here to holler, run for your life.

You can call that age discrimination, or call me an old fart, but in my ten years on the college circuit I’ve witnessed some real special stupid.  (And, yes, it could well be that that’s just my road weary opinion, or that’s just who turns out for these events, or scarier yet; that’s who I draw.)

On one particular night as I drove in circles through the campus maze (the typical college campus isn’t designed for nighttime navigation — poor lighting, unmarked buildings, phallic sculptures), I finally stopped and rolled down a window to ask a student for directions.  “Can you tell me where Doohickey Hall is?”

I got Forrest Gump. “Uh, yeah.  That’s this building right here.  But, uh, this is the back.  The front is around the other side.”  I’ve found that if I tagged that with, “wait, lemme get a pen..”, it makes a great opening line.  That would seem to confirm that I’m not alone in this opinion.

My first college run was a real wake-up call.  I’d gotten spoiled in the comedy clubs, where I was always a big playful hit in front of two-hundred paying comedy fans — a delight to drunks everywhere.

My first college agent had found me in a club, taken me under wing, and groomed all of the smut and imperfections from my show.  In essence, we set out to create the perfect college act.

And she knew her business, having married a popular campus “Entertainer of the Year” award winner, and having worked two long years touring with him.  She had been all over the states, seen every college, every motel, every great show, and every bad show too.

And they’d made a ton of money.  Now it was my turn.

It was three days into my first college tour, as I phoned her from my snow smothered motel in Gunnisson, Colorado, that I started ranting about all the details she’d left out of her college sales pitch:  The poor introductions, amateur stagehands, bad directions, hundred mile drives through blizzards, and the deathly noon-time shows in the cafeteria.

My agent had been through all of it, and as her laughter crackled through the weak phone line, the whole damn thing started feeling like one big practical joke.  Every night I called, she’d ask, “How did it go?”

“How did it go?” I’d say.  “The show was in the student lounge while a reggae band did their sound check.  My ‘stage’ was right next to the elevator.  I’d be in the middle of a bit, get interrupted by the bell and the elevator would open, some poor unsuspecting student would walk out, everyone staring at them, and I’d say things like, ‘now let’s meet our next contestant…’ or  ‘sector five!, intruder! Security to sector five!’ OR, I’d just drop the mic and escort them over to the band.”

“…Which should have gotten laughs, except there were only eighteen kids there, and half of them were on an excursion from ‘special ed’.  Every time I started a song parody, they’d chime in, all singing along off-key, having a great time.  I finished the show as Barney.  They want me back.”

Real Men Don’t Need an Intro

       There is so much that you take for granted in the comedy clubs, like a simple intro and outro.  At one school I forgot to tell the MC to jump back up and close the show, you know, take me off and thank everyone for coming out, or at least play some music while I exit.  So I finish, and everybody in the room thinks I’m joking, so I go back up and do a little more, then tell ‘em to go home, dammit.  They’re still clapping and wanting more, so I ended up doing two hours that night.

       So I get wise to the situation. At the next show, I tell the MC to be sure and remember to take me off stage at the end of the show.   Now, as I finish my act, the MC comes up to the edge of the four-inch high stage, and she gingerly takes my hand as I step down — literally “takes me off stage”, like we’re going to minuet or something — and then doesn’t close the show.

Funny? Open With It

       One time at a NACA convention show in Peoria (and this would be a performance with a lot of potential money riding on it), I decided to try and kick a little life into things with a last minute change in my opener.  I thought it would be cool if I just came out with the guitar, hammering away at the old classic rock thing, “Gloria”, you know, “G-L-O-R-I-A, Gloooria?”  Only I’d sing P-E-O-R-I-A, and stick some funny stuff in about the convention,… killer, right?

Do you remember the scene in “The Blues Brothers” where they finished that big opening number after making the audience wait all night?    Nothing.  Gum cracking.  Crickets.

OK, so not only did everyone at the convention drive in from other  cities, and therefore not give a shit about Peoria, but no one was old enough to know the song.

SUNY Long Island sits at the end of a beautiful winding wooded road, but the scenery turns sour as you veer into the campus parking lot: Spray paint graffiti and garbage.  My show was in the men’s dorm.  That spells trouble already.  As I neared the area, loud rap music pumped out of the building.

I went through the metal detector at the door and entered an unpainted cement room with folding chairs strewn everywhere, kinda looked like a good place for a cockfight — or human sacrifice.   No one had really noticed me up to that point.  It was the only show I ever considered totally blowing off — asking myself, “How badly do I need this thousand bucks?”

I opened with a white-boy rap, and managed to do twenty minutes over the roar of conversation, a guy shouting, “you not funny mothafucka”, and smattering of laughter that was probably more at me than with me.  Whatever works.

On the drive back out, I figured that buried somewhere alongside that beautiful road was last week’s comic.

Nooner Hell

       Nothing is more dangerous than a comic that gets pushed into survival mode — that state that begins when all the “A” stuff is fizzling.  That’s when a comic starts reaching for the audience, the waitress, …old jokes… “well, ..what do you guys wanna talk about?”

The community colleges are notorious for noontime shows (because they are usually commuter campuses that would be hard pressed to find an audience after five PM), and nooners will almost always push one into survival mode.

The poor students are just trying to get lunch, and the poor performer is trying to get a laugh.  It’s a desperate crossroads.

So there I am on stage, doing a running commentary of anything that moves — because that’s what works — when this kid with long blond hair enters my cross hairs.   I said something about hermaphrodite day and keeping the sixties alive, and when he walked back through the room, he flipped me off on his way out.  “Oh, he says I’m number ONE!”, I covered.

Ten minutes later, he came back with three big friends who proceeded to stand, arms crossed and glaring, in the center of the room.  Now I was starting to have fun.

“Uh oh,” I said in a gravelly western narration, “Fabio’s back, and he’s brought a POSSE.   Stick around folks, there’s comedy, a fight,…it’s a whole entertainment package.”

But the audience, sensing trouble, was starting to squeeze up.  I said something about how the big guys were just protecting their she-man, and some other emasculating homo stuff.  I wish to hell I’d taped that show, because at some point I broke through.  The heavies realized how ludicrous the whole thing was, and actually started to crack a smile.

It was too late though; the audience was booing them out of the room. I finished up and was escorted to my car by security.

The Fordham University thing was a one night isolated gig;  LA to the Bronx, out and back.  Two grand. Yeah!

Expenses though, were coming out of my pocket, so as I left the ninety dollar a night Holiday Inn after being there barely an hour, I started thinking, ‘Geez, there’re hookers cheaper than that.”  I came up with a scheme.

I went to the front desk and (borrowing from an experience with our first son a few months before — I’m not completely deviant) told them that my wife had just called and was going into labor and that I was cutting my trip short and the room was clean (well it was), and could they charge back my credit card.  They were very nice, and said yeah, sure, and good luck with the baby.   “uh, yeah, right. Thanks.”

I pulled out of the Holiday Inn laughing out loud that I’d just saved ninety dollars, “Yeah, ..having a baby, hoo hoo hee hee, have a cigar,…I’m a genius”,  and proceeded to get on the freeway in the wrong direction.

I finally get turned around and find myself lost and stuck in traffic, downtown Bronx, Friday night.  The place is all decked out with bullet holes, spit, barbed wire, and the mega-bass rap-cars going ‘boomboom kill the white boy’.

I’m feeling a bit out of place in my aloha shirt.  Every time I reach an intersection, the guys with the squeegees jump out and start scrubbing my windows.  I’ve got the shiniest fuckin windows in the world.  I don’t know where I am, but I sure can see it.

Now I’m really late and panic is setting in as I screech down back roads running over chickens, fruit carts, and the two guys carrying the big plate glass.

I find the campus.  It’s two minutes to show time.  During all of this, it never occurs to me that the college might get nervous and call the hotel looking for me.  I pull up to the theater, and up on the marquee, across my name, is a big banner reading, “SHOW CANCELED, HIS WIFE IS HAVING A BABY”.

“Oh, god, oh, shit.” I start laughing at the predicament I’d created.  “I’m not giving up two thousand bucks that easy!”  I bolt for the theater, guitar in hand, running upstream like a salmon against the river of people leaving the auditorium.  I’m shouting to them, “No, I’m here, Come on inside!”

Between breaths I tell the staff we’ll work out this stuff later, just start the show.  I get on stage and come clean with the whole story, and really unload a tirade about the lady who gave me the stupid directions.  She’s pissed, the crowd’s loving it.  My agent ended up giving them a break on the price, and I went home and tried to forget the whole thing.

A week later I get a little package in the mail.  It’s a baby gift from my friends at the Bronx Holiday Inn.



Stand-up Comedy 101

By Jaz Kaner-


Stand-up 101

(Written – primarily for actors – in 1998 for my column in DramaLogue, I still enjoy the 90’s references in this piece. It’s my standup comedy ‘how to’, and still has some insightful ideas).

Amnesty Nervosa  – If you’ve done some acting, then consider this prerequisite filled, but for many, the whole getting on stage solo thing sparks a primal fear.  Speaking before a group of people is the #1 fear people have.  In fact, they say we fear it more than death.  (If you’ve already read in front of the producers consider yourself immortal.)

I recall one story of airline pilots that were rigged up to monitor their heart beat and tension during the flight, and the doctors found that everything went off the chart when the pilots had to pick up that little microphone and address the passengers (you’d never guess, listening to those narcoleptic announcements from the cockpit).

There are a few things you can do for nerves.

#1.   Lost, and Proud of It — Know what you want to say.  As with acting, you’ll find great comfort in the safety of a solid script, but there’s a delicate balance here; You want to know exactly where you’re going, and at the same time you don’t want it to look memorized– or that you’re stressed because it’s not.  It’s got to look real, and for many types of acts that means it should look like you “just thought that up”.

I constantly write new stuff that doesn’t get a fair test-run simply because I don’t take time to memorize it, and then fumble through or forget to do it entirely.   Maybe I’m lazy, but I keep hoping that some club owner is going to get creative and put up a tele-prompter in the back of the room.  Until that happens, I’ll just keep reaching for the water glass on the stool while I sneak a peek at my cheat sheet.

#2.  The Lewinski Method — It may help, especially first time out, to know exactly when you plan to hold the mic, or not, and whether you plan to talk about it.  You’ll look real slick if you just walk up there, whip the thing out, and hold it loosely up to your mouth, then stroll around flouting your mighty presence (practice that flouting thing).

#3.  Busted! — Be aware that in many rooms you’ll be blinded by the spotlights.  There’s not much you can do short of inventing a character that wears Ray-Bans.  In some rooms you can request that they “drop the hot whites a bit and throw some flood on the first few rows” (um, yeah, that sounds good).

#4.  Starving Artist — Perform with an almost empty stomach.  Butterflies and digestion don’t go well together.  This may be a personal preference thing; I’ve known guys who’d wolf down a meal while doing  their show, but for most of us, keep it light – that way there’s less to heave.

#5.  Mescal-culation — Alcohol makes things funnier — mostly to the one drinking.  If you’re finding courage in a bottle, you’re going to run into problems on those three show Saturdays.

The Plug — If you are starting from scratch in the comedy business, I should take this opportunity to mention a good book called, “Be A Stand-up Comic (or just look like one)”.  It’s a basic nuts and bolts “comedy career guide” that was written by the owners of one of the longest running comedy clubs in the country, “Laughs Unlimited” up in Sacramento (it’s also the first club I ever worked; 1982, opening for Paula Poundstone and Garry Shandling?!).   Author Scott Edwards, who has annoyed comics for years by offering his ego-shattering worldly advice, wisely decided it would be much safer to put things down in writing.

To those of us whose ego will allow the input, he offers these comforting words on fear:  “Fear is what will keep you from doing comedy.  Fear is what will spread self doubt through your mind and have you bombing in your brain before you step out on stage…Never give the audience a clue that you’ve just ruined two weeks of perfect constipation right on stage…They’ve paid their money.  Now they want to be entertained.  So, more often than not, the audience will be very willing and intent on listening to what you have to say.  These people actually WANT YOU TO SUCCEED.”  (I personally have a streak that pre-empts my writing anything that inspirational; I’d rather push you off the deep end and snicker while the sharks feed.)

The Microphunny – Every time I watch the Oscars, I cringe at the sight of so many otherwise intelligent people LEANING  DOWN  to that little microphone, like it never occurred to them that there’s a well paid sound crew that will make them heard.  Then it occurs to me that these people don’t usually see traditional mics – they work all year around with boom-mics, wireless mics, shotguns, and parabolics.   And then there’s always “post”.  What you’ll find however, is that very little of that technology has made its’ way into the comedy clubs.  Comedians are still largely (except for a few wireless magicians, jugglers, and hypnotists) fighting it out in the trenches with the industry standard – the virtual icon of the comedy business – the Shure P-58.   It’s a clunky muzzle loader, silver in color, and sure to blast you out of many a tight situation – for many years a favorite of club owners who value it for it’s boring durability.  (The Edwards book mentions the cost and delicate handling required of “this fragile tool”…cheap bastard.)   Make sure there’s a mic-stand and clip — you may need both hands to deflect rotten fruit.  Watch out for mics that have that damn little button placed right where your hand flicks it off just before your punch line.  If you’re following the proverbial drunk guy who spits all over the mic while doing loud sound effects, grab a towel and wipe the mic;  not only have you avoided ebola — you’ve just gotten your first laugh.

How Come You Never Write? – Your stand-up showcases not only your persona and some acting ability, but your writing ability.  Carry a scrap of paper and pen at all times, and jot down the funny ideas, because you’ll never remember all of it.  Then when you sober up in the morning and pull that stuff out of your sticky pocket, you’ll read it and go “huh”?

Most of us do write our own stuff (and god, do we get tired of answering that question at the clubs).  Hiring a writer is no crime, it’s just that creating material that fits your character, your personal viewpoint, beliefs, and delivery is such a personal endeavor that few comics have a successful “marriage” with a writer.  They also cost a lot.  A typical writer works on retainer of some sort, and makes like thirty to fifty bucks per joke – money well spent if you lack the funny knack, and I have yet to find anyone who will admit that.   (Is this sounding like a Smash Mouth song?)

But a good joke that fits you well, such as one about your name or goofy looks, can be used in countless situations — interviews, publicity, IRS audits — and pays for itself many times over.   Ego is the other reason more comics don’t hire writers — we’re all in love with our own ideas.  I mean heck, that’s the reason we got in this business in the first place.

Edit. Edit. Edit or You Write Too Much – This is something I preach to everyone. Brevity is the buzzword.  There’s nothing more annoying than the guy who comes up to me after a show and wants to tell me a joke, and then he proceeds to tell the longest-wordy-winding-road-time-consuming-hey-there-goes-my-attention-set-up IN THE WORLD.  (…and I’ve already heard it).  Short attention spans are a big by-product of the 90’s.  Write your stuff out, and then go through it and cross out every unnecessary word you can.  Cut it and get to the funny.  Your audience’s time is too precious.

The Character Issue — Wow.  Sometimes the hot topics fall right into your lap.  Current politics aside, character or persona is probably the single largest item separating road-hacks from movie stars.   I’ve met performers who couldn’t write, act, or even deliver a line without a cue-card, and yet I knew, in some frustrating backwater of my mind, that none of that would impede their success, because they had that CHARACTER.  (And I submit to you Larry “Bud” Melman.)

A rare few seem to be born with a unique look, a voice, and the matching inseparable perspective, while the rest of us are stuck with what amounts to a lifetime of searching for our  SELVES.

All I can tell you, brethren, is that you’re not alone.  We are one confused people.  But there is Hope:  Gather up your memoirs, mantras, and mood rings; your astrological charts, family genealogy, and those first-grade report cards.  Bring the lists of hobbies, talents, and past lives, and that poem you wrote in college after the bong-hits out camping.  Read that Depak Chopra, Noam Chomsky, Cornholio manifesto.  Take the five day fast, the peyote buttons, and the high resolution fiber optic flash-powder colonic.  Then, returning from your walkabout, as you pick your way down the misty mountain-side, basking in your newfound higher self,  you’ll hear a voice crack from the heavens, “It’s your agent calling – Do you know how to roller-skate?”



The Comic Truth About Hollywood – A Letter From the Trenches

1581 thought out words

Originally published in Drama-Logue, 1998

(“Funny Bizz” – weekly column by Jaz Kaner)

 The Comic Truth About Hollywood –

A Letter From the Trenches

       As the pilot season came to a close here, I received a letter that spoke so perfectly for so many of us, that I felt it would be best answered here from my pulpit.  From Beverly Hills, James writes the following:

Dear Mr. Kaner,

       I thoroughly enjoyed your article in the “Drama-Logue” newspaper, for the week of February 5th to the 11th.  Like millions of others last year, I have moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting; however, I have found I have a special knack for writing as well.  At the present time I am writing a novel, which I started in October.  Only a few days ago did I feel I could write comedy sketches, and that was the day I picked up your article.         However, I do have some questions.  Having lived here for just over six months, and not knowing a soul in the entertainment business (except for the other out-of-work actors in my acting class), I’m having trouble finding the best places to start.  I have already been deceived by a “management” company and a “casting” company, and I keep encountering the same lying bastards (excuse my French) time and time again.  I am 100% certain I will succeed in this business, but Î would like it to go just a little smoother and quicker than it is right now.  What do you suggest?  How do I get into a comedy club?  How can I go about meeting the right people, or at least somewhat genuine  people?    Any information (other than that in your brilliant article) would be greatly appreciated.


                                          James Thelman

Dear James, Welcome to Hollywood:

              For starters, don’t move;  the Beverly Hills address (and its now famous zip-code) will undoubtedly impress the icicles off all of your friends and relatives back in Woonsocket.  They’ll all spend countless years staying up late to catch you on Leno or  Baywatch, and then write you during the holidays to say they still haven’t seen you on TV, driving home your continued failure like a stake to the heart.

More importantly, if you move to Yucaipa, the industry will roll their eyes and treat you like you’re from another planet.  They want to keep you real close at hand so you can be yanked out of a warm slumber for the fourth callback.

Keep an eye out;  your best publicity gambit might be if your wealthy landlord unexpectedly invites you out for a burger and crack.


       Your complement  about my “brilliant article” is revealing in that you’ve either  A) acquired the Hollywood penchant for stroking people, or B) you too, have become a “lying bastard”.   So thank-you, and/or be careful — it sneaks up on you.

How Do I Get Into A Comedy Club?

       Jeez, I can’t start over for everyone who walks in late, so you might call Drama-Logue for some of my other epic writings (many are now provided in hotel rooms).  All are 1998, Vol. XXIX.  My Charter column – “Why stand-up?” is #4.   The issue you saw was #6 – “Standup 101”.   #8 is “The Ten Commandments of Comedy”.  If you qualify for the abuse, “Crashing the College Circuit” is #10, and #12 is “My Worst College Shows”, which might convince you not to buy #10.

The current situation looks like this:  Comedy clubs will open their doors to anything that has a mouth that they can pour booze into.  That mouth doesn’t even have to laugh, but it must be accompanied by a wallet.

Ah, but to get in as a performer,  you’ll have to hire another mouth with a commanding phone presence to call-in and inform the club of your comedic genius and new HBO special.  So you see, those “lying bastards” have their place.

With the amount of idle talent in this town, I’d be surprised if anyone is still doing an (amateur) open mic nite.  Here’s an equation I borrowed from Einstein;  The further you get from this city, the better your odds of getting stage time, and pay.   (And what would it matter if you bombed in front of the Yermo Rotary Club.)

You say that you’re “100% certain that you will succeed in this business.”  That’s GREAT!   One hundred percent?!  That’s pure!!  That beats Ivory soap!   Goddamn, you make me feel like a lazy pig!  Most days I hover right around the forty-two mark, but I’ve been here a while.

As this city starts to beat you up, I want you to carry with you, these powerful words that came to me from a great theologian (well actually, this guy did some extra work as a great theologian):  Success lies in the journey.   Life is what happens while we’re making other plans.

Millions of Actors ?

       Your estimate of “…millions of people moving here to pursue acting careers” is actually quite close, but the numbers are misleading.  452,639 of them came here hoping to make their fortune on a game show.   753,280 have no particular focus, but cling tenaciously to a thread of hope because somewhere, somebody told them they had “a look”.   24,878 of them will piss-off the script writers by changing things at the audition, saying “it’s funnier my way”.  348,698 will get married and have kids, and have to move to more affordable housing “near the folks”.  592,744 will, in their struggle to pay the rent, be side-tracked into multi-level marketing schemes and become a pain in the ass to all of us.  And 179,372 are just looking to sue someone.

That leaves you and me, James, and I think that together, we can RUN this town.

First thing is to fix your lingo and speak like an insider.  You’ll have to lose this “special knack for writing” thing.  “Special knack” applies better to jingles or  crochet.  Next time you’re at the bar, try this:  “…Yeah, Warner just optioned my last willis, and promised to ten/thirty the next one.”  Look around the room while you talk, like you’re waiting for someone BIG.

You’ve also got to scratch that “comedy sketch” thing.  It’s just “comedy”.  It’s more vague that way — less commitment.  Don’t commit to anything.  Go to your car and shoot out the turn signals.

Don’t use “No”.  NObody uses “NO” here.  Try instead, “sounds good..”, “ week..”,  or defer the question to some nebulous higher authority;  “The people of my planet will decide…”.

Meeting The Right People

       Well James, when you speak of “meeting the right  people”, that would infer that there also exists the wrong  people.  But as I have already shown, within this rich Hollywood eco-system, there is a special symbiotic place for the wrong people.  In much the same way that nature has provided us with sharks, hyenas, and maggots, the “wrong” people serve to thin out the weak and gullible, and insure that only the fittest predators survive.  It is these fittest predators that will mate during the pilot season, and produce the next generation of fine Hollywood product.

If you still think you’ve  encountered the wrong people, then try this acting thing while sporting a pair of breasts.

Meeting The Real People

       Now, meeting some genuine  people, that’s something else altogether.  Rest assured, my friend, there are a ton of genuine people in LA, and through my years of vigilant networking here, I have met and continue to meet many of them.  For only $39.95, I will sell you my list of genuine people.  For another twenty-five, I’ll send you the quarterly updates, as people tend to fall off that list.

That list, by the way, also includes a couple of the “right” people, one of which is my wife.  Mostly she watches the kids, but she was right for me, and would be happy to meet you.

The funny thing is that genuine people is exactly what THEY  (casting) are looking for.   It’s unfortunate that the genuine people tend to get chewed up by the machinery.  You may find one right beneath their battle armor.


       My last piece of wisdom to you, Jim, is about milking the most out of your resources.   For instance, in order to get a publisher interested in that novel you’re writing, you’ll need some impressive credits to convince them of your literary greatness.  You know, like maybe you slept with somebody famous or stabbed someone.

But did you know, Jim, that as of this issue of Drama-Logue, which includes your letter, YOU are now a PUBLISHED AUTHOR?!   Be sure to include THAT in your resume, pal!!  That stuff goes a long way when you’re pitching the book deal.

Also, being as you gave consent to use the letter, well, according to my contract, you granted all rights to print, publish, reproduce, edit, reuse, and sell the Work in any form.

In fact, down here at the paper, we were so enamored with the passion and underdog theme of your letter, we’re now developing it into a TV pilot and a feature film starring Jim Varney and the Spice Girls.

I’m sure you’re good for a few points on the back end.  Welcome to Hollywood!

PS – You can write me at, but I can’t promise that all of your letters will develop into movies.




Who is Jaz Kaner?

Jaz Kaner likes to write about himself in the third person. During the 1980’s and 90’s he was a touring professional comedian who would now rather be surfing. Jaz grew up in Hawaii, and has never recovered from that. He can hold his breath for three minutes, though it’s rarely necessary. Yes, his name “Jaz” is silly, but he’s luckier than his sister Polka.

Back before everyone had a computer, you could see Jaz on Showtime, MTV, and in just ONE movie – “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane” (as long as you didn’t blink). He’s written jokes for Jimmy Walker and Jay Leno, but not for himself. His name is on the wall at the Hollywood Comedy Store; Some say it’s vandalism.

Jaz Kaner has performed with The Beach Boys, Jim Carrey, Jerry Seinfeld, George Lopez and many others who soon forgot him. He’s written for magazines, newspapers, blogs, and a few times to get himself out of legal trouble.

Kaner is an avid musician (bass & guitar), and is still searching for the perfect wave. He currently owns Banzai Surf School in Huntington Beach, but would like to salvage his summers.