I was recently in the San Francisco Bay Area visiting family (sorry I didn’t get to see most of my friends), but I had a little time one of the nights, so I decided to search out a local open mic to keep up my comedy chops.
My comedy teacher says that open mics are like going to the gym: you just go there to get your reps in. Also, some people go there to show off, which is dumb. As I didn’t want to get rusty, I found an out of town gym (open mic).
The mic that I found was a mixed mic (comedy, music, poetry, whatever…), and I have gotten decent laughs at mixed mics in the past. However, my comedy teach (sensei) also says that if you set yourself a goal within your control when going to an open mic, then as long as you meet that goal, (whether or not you get laughs) you can consider that mic a success.
My goal for this mic was to be present in the room and not sound like a robot reading off of a script. I think I accomplished this task rather well. About halfway through my dialysis jokes, I noticed that the room had gone quiet, so I made mention of the fact that I probably sucked all the energy out of the room by telling dialysis jokes (it’s probably a good thing I didn’t mention my stroke).
The venue was called The Art Boutiki, and it is a fun Tiki themed bar/restaurant/comic book store/performance venue. The place seemed to be mostly set up for music, but I felt welcomed as a comedian, and I found out later there were many other comedians there (I left after my set (I went on first), so I didn’t actually get a chance to see any of the other comedians).
Did I just use a parenthetical inside a parenthetical? Yes, I did. It is my blog, and I can do what I like!
A few weeks ago, I started the Helium Comedy Academy advanced class, and I am still having trouble figuring out if the class is called Stand-Up 200, or Stand-Up 201. Let me explain…
On the Helium website, and in the email communication that I received, the class is called 200, which is what I figure is the official name of the class. However, everyone that I have seen online or spoken to in the Portland comedy community refers to it as 201. Maybe because the first level is called Stand-Up 101, and they assume that the next level is 201?
I should probably just ask my teacher to clarify, but I’m shy.
Wait, what? If you are shy, why are you doing stand-up comedy? Isn’t that antithetical? Again, allow me to explain…
I have only ever taken those crappy online Meyers-Briggs type tests, but I hold firmly in my beliefs (and the crappy tests confirm) that I am an introvert. According to Wikipedia (I was too lazy to research deeper), “[i]ntroversion is the state of being predominantly interested in one’s own mental self. Introverts are typically perceived as more reserved or reflective.” It goes on to say that “introverts as people whose energy tends to expand through reflection and dwindle during interaction.”
So if I ever seem to lose interest in what you are saying, it is because I am lost on some wild adventure of thought, expanding my energy. The question then becomes: if I am one whose focus is internal, how can I do something so external like stand-up comedy? Explanation continued below…
When I am on stage, I become like a different person. It is as if my body becomes inhabited by a spirit who is much more outgoing then myself, a spirit who loves to play and explore and who feeds on laughter. One could say (I am saying it, actually) that it is my inner self coming out of its shell, my inner child coming to the door to play with the neighborhood kids. There is nothing more exhilarating to me than to have an audience of people laughing at a turn of phrase (or a weird face) that I crafted to elicit just that response. It is a victory, a game of chess won not by my intellect, but by my spirit, the core of my being.
Either that or I’m just crazy, which is also possible.
One of the chief frustrations that I face doing dialysis is constantly having to explain to people that I don’t get poked in the arm with huge needles three days a week (seriously, they are huge). When I was at stage 4 kidney disease (the stage before end-stage), I was given a choice between the two modalities of dialysis: the more common hemodialysis, which is what most people think of when they hear the word dialysis, or the less common, and rarely discussed peritoneal dialysis (PD).
I was lucky enough to have a steady fiancé (now wife) to discuss the decision with, so we listed out the pros and cons of both.
Easy to travel, book dialysis at any local clinic (worldwide)
In-center and home-hemo
Pulls off a lot of fluid
Home-hemo has the highest survival rate
In-center has nurses to cannulate the needles (poke you)
Only dialyze 3 -5 times a week (in-center/home-hemo)
Fistulas often balloon up to be kind of ugly
Huge needles (I have interviewed a couple of people who have done hemo; they are very large).
In-center takes up many hours of the day three days a week (I think it is 4 to 6 hours).
Home-hemo takes up many hours of the day about five days a week (less time in the chair, but more days per week).
Must sit still the whole time (needles can shift causing pain or arterial damage).
Higher risk of infection
Care partner required to have training to assist with poking you with these huge needles
Easy to perform alone
Less risk of infection (with modern disinfectants)
Home cycler allows for dialysis at night, while sleeping
No ugly fistula
Home PD is the second highest survival rate
Easy to travel with supplies shipped to destination (for free)
Semi-permanent catheter coming out of the abdomen
Dialysis 7 days a week (to start)
Weight gain (for most people)
Often bad for diabetics (the dialysate solution is basically sugar water)
What We Chose
We ultimately chose PD because I wanted to still be able to work, so the ability to dialyze while I was sleeping appealed to me. And, I knew that I would be going on the transplant list to get a new (used) kidney, so I didn’t want to be left with an ugly, permanent fistula for the rest of my life.
Also, my wife (fiancé at the time) didn’t feel comfortable inflicting pain on me almost daily, by impaling me with these huge spears of needles (did I mention they were big?). I knew that I wanted to do home dialysis, to have control over my own treatment and give myself the best chance at surviving this crazy thing I have to do all the time.
I have been doing great on PD; it works really well for me. I have my diabetes under control with diet and exercise, and my doctor has slowly taken me down to dialyzing only four nights a week. Only FOUR!
How Dialysis Works
With hemodialysis, blood is removed from the body and run through a machine with dialysate solution to draw toxins and excess fluid out of the blood. Home-hemo requires large tanks for dialysate solution and room for an expensive (but free to use) water filtration system.
PD utilizes the peritoneal lining of the stomach to filter the blood. A catheter is inserted into the abdomen to allow the abdominal cavity to be filled with dialysate solution. Through osmosis, toxins and excess fluid pass from the blood stream, through the peritoneal membrane, and into the dialysate solution, which is then drained from the body, carrying with it all the nasty toxins and waste water that working kidneys would usually send to the bladder as urine. The used dialysate solution has a yellow tint, similar to urine, so I often refer to my catheter as my second penis.
Welcome to my new blog to those of you who came over from livingwithesrd.com, and welcome to my blog those of you who are finding me for the first time. I was starting to feel like ESRD was taking over my life (more than it already had), and as I am a big believer in manifestation and other such hippie nonsense, I had to pump the brakes for a while and clear my head from thinking about being sick.
In the coming months, I will be migrating most of my blog posts from livingwithesrd.com to my fancy new personal website. I may keep the domain name for a little while at least and just point it to my new site, although I can’t imagine that my blog is linked anywhere on the web besides the posts that I made on social media. But anyhow, this blog and this website will not be going anywhere anytime ever (I don’t expect my name to change).
I have spoken to many people (anyone who will listen, really) about how I had a stroke in April of 2016, but one thing that I haven’t spoken about much is how I lost all confidence as a performer. Every year, I used to put on some kind of performance at my old job. The year before I left, they had a talent show at the annual holiday party. Even though I practiced the songs that I was going to play, because my confidence was gone, I still stumbled a lot, and I don’t feel like I gave a good performance. Lucky for me, everyone there knew me as a bit of a funny guy, so they all just thought it was a part of the performance, but I felt sick about it, and I left the party early.
I quit the two improv schools that I was attending in Los Angeles, and I ran away up to Portland, Oregon with my wonderfully supportive wife. I had no plans to get back into performance when all of the sudden an old YouTube video that some friends and I made started getting hundreds, then thousands, and now millions of views. Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in!
I knew that I had to do something to win back my confidence, and that was about the time that I got word that some people at work wanted to start a Toastmasters club. I jumped at the opportunity, and I am now a charter member of that Toastmasters club and also a club officer. Over the last year, I have given ten speeches, and I have served in every other role many times over, giving me a lot of practice speaking in front of other people. I have completed level 3 of the Engaging Humor pathway, and I am well on my way to completing level 4 by the end of the year (there are 5 levels).
One of the level 4 speeches that I have chosen to give is to write at least eight blog posts in a month and to talk about that experience, hence the reason I am getting back into blogging again. The other reason I wanted to get back into blogging is because I have also started doing stand-up comedy again.
I started doing stand-up way back in the early- to mid-2000s. If I had to guess, I think it was June of 2004. I remember it being in the summer, and I remember doing it twice in two months. Soon after that, I took classes at the San Francisco Comedy College, and I was playing all over the San Francisco Bay Area (mostly the South Bay). I had recently graduated college, and I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life, and I thought that comedy sounded good. My former (and then later) band mate had moved down to Los Angeles to pursue music and entertainment, and I thought that I would maybe like to get into that too.
Skipping to the end, after I had gotten a few chuckles at Toastmasters (people just laugh at the things I say), I decided to dip my toe back into the comedy pool up here in Portland, where there is a thriving comedy scene. Before I took the plunge into doing open mics (scary), I took a stand-up comedy class at the Helium Comedy (club) Academy. In this class, I learned a new method of joke writing, one that gave me the confidence to stand up on stage and yell jokes at drunk people (in the eloquent words of my teacher).
If you have gotten all the way through my rambling, here is a video of my graduation showcase for the Helium class, and I have to say that I am very proud of these jokes.