Musings on the Coronavirus, Part III
1. Now that I’m stuck at home, I can do things I’ve always wanted to do. What’ll it be tonight — The Iliad or The Odyssey? Oh, here’s Episode 4 of Love Is Blind on Netflix.
2. I’ve been performing in comedy clubs regularly for 18 years. Whenever I do, I give a shout-out to the wait staff, pointing out that I legitimately think their jobs are harder than the comedians’. I really don’t know how people in the service industry do it. As such, my heart goes out to all of the workers without work at this time. I once heard a comedian say the following:
“Ah, ‘check drop’: that time of the night when all of the checks come out and you’re all trying to figure out the bill. Could I suggest something? Whatever you were gonna leave as a tip, just leave one more dollar. It won’t mean much to you personally, but there are 300 audience members in this room right now, and if we all do it, that makes a massive difference to these ladies and gentlemen.”
I asked the comic if I could “steal” that line and he willingly obliged, happily admitting it wasn’t even his. The idea was just to spread the wealth. So, I pass this along to you: do your best to order from your local businesses at this time. I’ve used that comic’s bit ever since and the wait staff is eternally grateful. So much so that a waitress in one of the clubs went home with a friend of mine. An onlooker remarked, “Man, aren’t you upset you didn’t get to go home with her?” I replied, “The way I look at it? I was so good that my friend got laid. That’s how amazing I am.” Key takeaways? 1. Support your local businesses. 2. I’m extremely talented.
3. In devastating news, Trump tested negative for the novel coronavirus. He revealed the results on the eve of the Ides of March. We were so close to having our own Julius Caesar moment. Alas, we should’ve known he’d never have a novel on him.
4. During this time, it’s imperative we check up on each other. To that end, I appreciate your calls and messages. Yes, live performers, just like service workers, are going to be greatly affected. Fortunately for me, I probably do over 100 shows a year, the majority of those in comedy clubs. By volume, sure, I’m more often onstage at the clubs. But by dollars, most of my income comes from corporate, college, charity, and private gigs. For most live performers doing ticketing events, be they comedians, musicians, et al., if they miss their week, that’s lost revenue. Whereas, in my case, I’ve already had four gigs (with fixed fees) rescheduled for the fall. By the Grace of God, I had a decent January, a huge February, and a very good March up till the corona news broke. It just so happened that April was a blank slate for me anyway. May was looking enormous, but Insh’Allah, the rest of the events will be rescheduled, as well. I also got to celebrate my March 7 birthday unencumbered, so I’m counting my blessings at the moment. That said, in all likelihood, I usually am double-booked in the fall, my busiest season, so I’ll probably have to pass on a number of shows. Net/net, I expect I will lose a lot of money. Hence the reason for writing more. I’m trying to see if I can build more of a following online. So, thanks for reading.
5. I’ve sounded like a broken record the last three years, arguing against anyone who’ll listen that it very much matters who’s President. Nope, many argued. “Look at our 401(k)s. We’re all fine. Doesn’t make a difference who’s in-charge.” How does your Deal with the Devil look now? Hey, look, I can do surgery or fly an airplane under ideal conditions. So could most of you. The reason those people go through thousands of hours of training is for when things get rough. Now, whom would I rather have running things right now? Literally any other President in my lifetime, Democrat or Republican.
There’s a spousal exchange in the novel and 1980 Best Picture, Ordinary People, probably the most uncomfortable movie I’ve ever seen:
Donald Sutherland: “Can’t you see things in any other way than how they affect you?”
Mary Tyler Moore: “No, I can’t! And neither can you and neither can anyone else!”
It’s a great moment that nails how self-centered people see the world. Our President is a sociopath. He has no empathy, which shows in everything he does. All he cares about is the numbers and how they affect his re-election. If you can’t see that, you’re being intellectually and emotionally disingenuous. And no, I’m not being divisive. I’m stating facts and calling upon a supposed leader to lead.
6. When 9/11 happened, a number of people gave the government a pass, saying they couldn’t have imagined that terrorists could fly airplanes into buildings. That flew right in the face of the evidence that the CIA had prepared multiple white papers for just such a scenario. Sure, you may not have imagined it, but it’s the government’s job to imagine it. To picture how far ahead the US government is of society, just think of the Internet. It didn’t become a “thing” until 1994. And yet, DARPA had the early version of the Internet in 1969. (Yes, before Al Gore invented it.). They were a quarter of a century into the future. The most important function of government is to keep us safe, whether that’s through the military, the FDA, the EPA, or any of the other departments. If the Trump Administration cannot do the most basic of its jobs, then it needs to go. Full stop.
7. We can either run this like bipartisanship or a cruise ship.
8. The failure of leadership is bipartisan. As Bill Maher said, after 9/11, there was perhaps a six-week window during which Americans really would’ve changed the way we lived. It was an opportunity for George W. Bush to lead us. What’d he tell us to do? Go shopping. Obama was no different. After the 2008 crash, Americans were ripe for change. We were begging for some direction. I’m all for teaching a man to fish. But sometimes, I just need you to tell me what to do. Some of the worst advice I received (and I received it often) was when I was trying to get a job and senior managers would say: “Just be yourself.” Yes, I know. But what do I need to say? What’s the rubric? The formula? What’s the path here? So, in the midst of all of that, what was Obama’s response? “Americans have suffered enough.” No adjustments requested, no sacrifices suggested. So, this isn’t only on Trump. Americans have grown accustomed to doing things our way, thank you very much. The ME Generation is multigenerational. As such, do I think we can do this? No, if we listen to our leaders. But “Yes, if.” Yes, if we listen to each other. So, stay in touch with your family and friends (and fans, if you have ’em).
9. I keep seeing these articles. It’s not “Do’s and Don’ts.” Just for the record, it’s “Dos and Don’ts.”
10. Somebody asked me, “Have you ever seen anything like this?” Um, obviously not. The last one was in 1918, when 675,000 Americans died. According to Wikipedia, there are 13 people who are over 110 years old. Go ask them.
Rajiv Satyal is a standup comic. He resides in Los Angeles.