Allan Ishac
  • Author of New York's 50 Best Places to Find Peace and Quiet (6th Edition) and New York's 50 Best Places to Take Children (4th Edition)
  • Creator of the TranquiliCity app, the instant locator for relaxation in NYC
  • Creator of New York's 50 Best book series (Rizzoli)
  • Creator of the Hard Hat Harry children's video series
  • Two-time Telly Award winner for Best Children's Video
 

Allan Ishac

Am I The Only One…

who’s noticed that there are no funny conservative comedians?

Deniis Miller

Remember Dennis Miller on SNL? He was funny. Then he drank the red Kool-Aid. Now, painfully unfunny. (Credit: nydailynews.com)

And I am not just talking about SCROTUS45, who never laughs, has zero sense of humor, can’t tell a joke, and when he tries, ALWAYS bombs. The Orange Accident was obviously born without a funny bone. 

I’m talking about conservative comedians in general — you never see a really funny man or woman from the right side of the divide. 

Here are my various theories why:

  1. Conservatives are easy to make fun of, liberals are not. Conservatism is associated with the past, the old, the obsolete. We’re all raised to make fun of our parents, the generation before us that appears to all youth to be stuck in its ways, outdated, stale. We grew up thinking this was funny, and so we’re trained in mocking conservative viewpoints. Liberalism is associated with progress, moving forward, the future. That’s not as funny because it’s hard to ridicule since it hasn’t happened yet and it is naturally aspirational. Aspiration is hopeful and upbeat, anachronism is darker, worn out, and downbeat. So, conservatives are easy to satirize by liberal comedians. But from their entrenched position in old thinking, conservative comedians can’t be funny. They can only be funny if they’re mocking themselves, and then they aren’t really conservatives at all.
  2. Because liberals are progressive, they are willing to push to new places and break rules, and that’s funny. Breaking the rules, pushing the edges of the known, is what makes people laugh. Whether it’s about politics, sex, workplace stupidities, or life in general. Conservatives are afraid to break rules — they are trying to preserve the known and protect the past. There’s no edginess to that, so there’s no humor in it. 
  3.  Conservatives isolate. Liberals don’t. Conservatives are big on the American isolationist thing, keeping others out and themselves locked in. So they tend to have less exposure to other people, cultures, countries… and comedy. Some of the best comedy is born out of the differences and, more often, the similarities between the world’s citizens. But you can’t know that when you hide in a box. 
  4. And, finally, conservative humor grows in a putrid mental Petri dish. It’s born out of racism, sexism, homophobia, ethnocentricity, and generalized fear. Fear is a really terrible place from which to grow humor. I’m not talking about neuroses — neurotic, self-effacing humor is funny. I’m talking about fear that makes us hate. That makes us prejudiced. That makes us denounce and condemn. That kind of humor is never inclusive, it’s always exclusive. And it’s never truly funny.

And that’s why I think there are no really clever, creative, truly funny conservative comedians.

How To Tell Who’s In The Toilet Stall Next To You Without Peeking At Their Shoes

A brief tutorial on the art of “clandestine commode snooping”

Stall In Grad

They’re so close, yet so far away. (Credit: sciencelife.uchospitals.edu)

No, I’m not a creep. Not totally anyway. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who has strained themselves trying to identify a person in the next stall. 

It has happened to you, right? You’re minding your own business (doing your own business), when someone comes in, occupies the enclosure next to you, and proceeds to make a series of horrid noises that instantly bind you up. 

And you wonder, what orifice is producing those sounds? Do they not know that I’m sitting right here, not a foot away? Are those reverberations normal? Are they ill? WHO IS THAT?!

Snoop or get off the pot

Effective stall snooping requires a smartphone with a decent camera. (Credit: testyturnip.com)

I don’t know why I have to know the answer to this, but I do. Maybe it’s a desire to snicker while sharing the peculiar bathroom behavior with fellow workers and friends. Or a protective measure to keep me from ever squatting next to that person again. Perhaps a perverse impulse to feel superior (I don’t make those strange sounds!). Whatever the reason, I find I simply cannot leave the premises without identifying my unknown bathroom buddy. 

And this is where my dilemma comes in: how do I secure the information I require without being seen? If I look under the stall, the offender might be leaning over, too, looking right back at me. 

If I peer over the partition, he (or she if I’m in Europe) could suddenly glance up…and I’m caught! And if I talk, maybe to ask an innocent question of my commode companion, then I will have violated one of the cardinal rules of toilet stall etiquette — no conversation!

Phone in the bowl

There is one of the pitfalls to avoid. (Credit: youtube.com)

Luckily, I have come up with the answer to “clandestine stall snooping,” and it is incredibly simple. 

We all have a smartphone today, and we all carry our phones into public bathroom stalls — as the people at Words With Friends can verify — whether to play games, review our messages, or visit porn sites.  

What you probably haven’t realized is that every smartphone is a camera-ready restroom spy tool. 

Here, then, are my six-step process for revealing the identity of any person with you in a public privy:

  1. Open the camera function on your phone. 
  2. Flip the lens direction so you see yourself on the screen.
  3. With one hand, make some distracting noises with the toilet roll dispenser. At the same time, drop your phone to the floor, so it falls flat and crosses the line of the partition, landing slightly into the next stall. Curse as if this was an accident.
  4. Quickly reach down to retrieve the phone. As you do, tilt it slightly so it is aimed up at your bathroom buddy. 
  5. Now depress the shutter. 
  6. Presto! You have taken a surreptitious photo of your next-stall neighbor without them being aware of it or having to say “Cheese!”

I do believe this is a brilliant technique. 

Please let me know if it works. I’m dying to try it.

Am I The Only One …

who wants to know what the president’s sister — a respected federal judge — thinks of her racist, sexist, boneheaded brother?

Donnie & His Sis

(Credit: washingtonpost.com)

Are you aware that our failing president has a successful, Ivy-League educated sister, who is also a highly-regarded federal court judge? 

We all know by now that the rest of the Trump family is a bunch of boobs, bimbos, losers, locos, and lightweights. 

But then there’s Maryanne Trump Barry, a lawyer and retired federal court judge, who is, by all accounts, well-respected, extremely bright, tough but fair, thoughtful in her courtroom decisions, and someone who avoids the spotlight…unlike her bluster-filled, adolescent brother. 

What dos she really think about Donald Trump? Why don’t we hear from her? Why won’t she say what everybody believes — that she is so mortified by her sibling’s systematic dismantling of America, including its court system for which she dedicated her life, that she is effectively in hiding.

Of course, she might have said harsher things about him in the past — like that he’s a bozo who should watch his manners. I’ve considered that possibility, too, right here: https://extranewsfeed.com/older-sister-says-trump-has-gotten-too-big-for-his-britches-2472d75e8bff

Please Mrs. Trump Barry, give the people some hope. If there was ever a time to act like the big sister, it’s right now. 

Am I The Only One…

who grew up thinking that Camp David had counselors and an arts and crafts cabin?

ponies in the woods

See there were ponies, and woods, and dirt trails! (Credit: aboutcampdavid.blogspot.com)

I can’t tell you how many times I heard as a kid that the president and his family were going to Camp David for the weekend and I wondered if they would be canoeing, making decoupage, or sitting around a campfire roasting marshmallows at night. 

I didn’t realize the cabins had full amenities, that “campers” got around on golf carts, and that the food was five-star. I thought short-sheeting the bed and food fights were de rigueur for first families.

I got so preoccupied with the idea of Camp David as a rustic retreat for the presidents of my childhood — the Kennedy’s being the most prominent, because I was about the same age as John Jr., that I wrote a humor post about it that appeared in the Washington Examiner: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/are-there-counselors-at-camp-david/article/2565380

So, am I the only one who wanted a Camp David t-shirt??

The Wailing Garden

I have had a fantasy for years of creating a small, outdoor sanctuary—a simple, lovingly tended garden—that would be a place to break down.

I love the idea of a refuge filled with living, quiet things that won’t judge, won’t interfere, and won’t try to make it better … but will just absorb the melancholy and consume the despondency without changing it. Soil and roots, branches and leaves all scrambled together to form a kind of emotional shock absorber, an honorable place to go and be sad.

This living shelter would have a split rail fence lining its perimeter, covered in crawling vines so lush you could barely see the demarcation. There would be paths thick with wood chips underfoot, and just wide enough for two to walk side-by-side. Weathered teak benches would be tucked inside stands of swaying grasses … or Weeping Cherry trees. Adirondack chairs, placed here and there, would lie low and solo, so sitting in them would put you eye-level with violet snapdragons and calming lavender plants.

I would call this place The Wailing Garden.

And as you entered it, there would be a neat, hand-painted sign hanging at its entrance. It would read:

The Wailing Garden is a place to drop to your knees. You can shed tears here and grieve your losses. No one will ask questions. No one will interrupt. Stay as long as you like, leave when it feels right. Return again. The garden will pass through its seasons, as you will pass through this.

To The Front

I have an observation: virtually no one wants to sit in the front row.

Doesn’t matter whether it’s a class, a meeting, a presentation, or a workshop, people will pack the back but avoid the first three rows as if the seat cushions were soaked in bio-toxins.

Until a decade ago, I was one of those following the crowd to the rear—to the seats with the tight legroom, lousy acoustics, and distant views of the stage.

And I know why I stayed in back. Because it’s risky up there.

What if I need to get up to use the bathroom? I’d have to pass the entire audience—no doubt a bunch of busybodies thinking, “What’s with this guy’s bladder?”

Or if the event is dull or drags on, I’d feel boorish getting up to leave. The back of my head might even get heckled from the stage.

And … terror of terrors … the front row is where people always get called on. What if the speaker asks me a question, the presenter wants me to volunteer, or the demonstrator chooses me to be the assistant? I might make a fool of myself, say something stupid, or trip and fall flat on my forehead. Better to remain safely hidden in the back, out of the spotlight.

But ducking life is a lousy plan. And I finally figured out that the front row is where all the action takes place, where possibilities happen, where the best opportunities leave the stage and land in people’s laps.

Sure, it’s scary. I’m jittery every time I pull myself to the prow seats. But that’s where I need to go if I want to engage unreservedly in my own happiness and success, rather than numbing out in the rear.

It’s simple: life is just more fun in the front row.

The Creativity Squashers

I’ve been rereading (for about the twentieth time) one of my favorite books on the pitfalls  of writing, IF YOU WANT TO WRITE, by Brenda Ueland.

This gem of a book was published in 1938, but every word is as relevant and inspiring today as they were then, and they’ll be just as powerful in 2038. That’s because Brenda tells the truth in every sentence, and the truth never loses its freshness.

Writing is difficult—as every writer likes to tell you—and frightening. It has been both of those things for me. That’s because, like so many people who have tried to write, or do anything creative, I have had my share of creativity squashers around me trying to snuff out my desire to express myself.

As Brenda says, “The English teacher who wrote fiercely on the margin of your theme in blue pencil: ‘Trite, rewrite,” helped to kill it. Critics kill it, your family. Families are great murderers of the creative impulse.”

The result is that writers, virtually all writers, at least some of the time, become anxious and tight and terribly afraid. When you expect to get figuratively slapped every time you reach for a pen, you become hesitant, maybe you even go into hiding, taking your writing talent with you. I have done this many times, abandoned my writing and, as a result, disappeared from myself.

According to Brenda, the best way to duck the murderous hand of criticism is to surround yourself with people who protect you from it, who love you and appreciate you, who think you are very interesting or funny, and who truly take you in. These are the ones who say in words or through facial expressions, “Tell me more. Tell me all you can… Let more come out.”

If you have a few of those people in your life, you are very lucky. But if you don’t, I have another suggestion: find a community of writers, or painters, or pottery makers, or artists of some other kind, and hang out with them. These will be people with both imagination and understanding, who probably also got slapped by the hot hand of criticism.

About 15 years ago, I discovered such a place at The Writers Room in Greenwich Village. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank the kindhearted urban muses who pointed me there.

In The Writers Room, I feel that I am among friends, at home with my “found family.” I am a writer, and these are other writers—with the same insecurities, neuroses, fears of looking foolish, doubts and demons. These are my people.

Find yourself a place like this—where sensitive and sympathetic artists have gathered—and marinate there. You just might burst into tears at the freedom you feel and the urge you have to let your creative impulses speak honestly, with unchecked mischief.