Friday, December 23, 2016

Race Card vs. Trump Card

"So stop me if you've heard this before. A group of political and religious refugees flee an oppressive regime and found a new nation overseas. After some initial conflict with the indigenous peoples, they establish themselves for several generations and soon regard themselves as independent. Despite an increasing tendency towards democracy, the citizens of this nation are still regarded as citizens of the regime they've fled. A seemingly inevitable conflict is delayed by those who urge reconciliation on both sides.

Now, here's the ten thousand dollar question -- am I talking about America in 1776, or Taiwan nearly 230 years later?"

- Libertarian Rage, Friday, December 1st, 2006

When I was a kid, as part of an ongoing (and frankly futile) effort to instill me with some sense of discipline, my parents enrolled me in Tae Kwon Do -- a martial art that I pursued for long enough to achieve a red belt. Unlike most martial arts, it's a uniquely nationalistic sport, being carefully controlled and defined by its government. (In other words, it lacks the fluidity and adaptability of many others, but was perfectly suited to a kid struggling with some compulsive tendencies.) We would begin and end every training session by solemnly bowing to the Korean flag, and even as a kid I remember thinking that that was kind of fucked up.

After all, I'm a dual citizen. And biracial. And the son of an immigrant family. Conflicted loyalties are something I would say that I was uniquely sensitive to. I would even attribute to it some of my early experimentation with polyamory. I mean, the notion of love as a divisible concept is something that I knew to be absurd. (If a mother has a second child, does she then somehow love her first child less?) I eventually became a devoted monogamist once I realized that, yeah, while love was indivisible, things like my time, money, energy, and devotion all very much were. (Also, I'm sufficiently immature that my ability to sustain even one romantic relationship is frankly miraculous.)

Likewise, I eventually came to realize the distinction between love and loyalty. In terms of patriotism, my first loyalty is to these United States. That loyalty in no way diminishes my love for any of the many other countries to which I've traveled over the course of my life, or in which I have family that I care for.

So, President-Elect Donald Trump received a congratulatory phone call from the sovereign nation of Taiwan. This by itself would not be anything resembling a big deal, except for the fact that these United States have planting their fingers in their collective ears and pretending that that nation does not exist since 1979. To be clear, that means that Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama, all agreed to deny it any diplomatic recognition. All six administrations agreed to bow to the People's Republic, because of the economic power that it wielded. And the United Nations agrees to bow to it, because they have a fucking seat on the fucking security council.

And I find myself, once again, torn. On the one hand, like most of my colleagues, I reject the Trump administration, and all its works, and all its empty promises. And on the other hand, I've been a proponent of Taiwanese independence for most of my adult life. So, surprise! I'm conflicted. I'm also struggling with how incredibly non-conflicted most of my colleagues seem to be, as I watch my social media blow up with statements from Democrats mocking the leader of a democratic republic (who, by the way, is one of the first female leaders of an Asian nation, elected on an LGBT platform), and insisting that we mollify a communist dictatorship whose human rights abuses outnumber the spermatozoa that I've murdered in my devotion to Onan.

I mean, I am opposed to the Trump administration. Surely that cannot mean that literally every decision that that administration makes is somehow evil? I look at Trump's tweet regarding the incident:

...and while others are pointing out (I mean, rightly) how bizarre it is to see a President-Elect using new media to influence foreign policy, I find myself wanting to point out that this is actually a really fucking good observation. Last year alone, Barack Obama sold Taiwan $1.83 billion in weaponry. And me? I'm about as non-interventionist as they come, but I find myself thinking, hey. If China wants to attack us for acknowledging the existence of another democratic republic? In the immortal words of Doctor Gregory House: bring. It. ON.

...but that's just another bloodthirsty fantasy, one that I'm ashamed to see that I can still respond to. After all, the People's Republic won't attack us: they'll invade Taiwan. And I am, again, torn! As far as I'm concerned, Taiwan is China -- the best of China at its best. And the People's Republic is the worst -- not of China, but I mean, like, of our species. As a Chinese man, I am horrified at the prospect of having to passively watch the various UN nations passively watch the People's Republic launch missiles at the Republic of China. And as an American, I am horrified at the prospect of these United States engaging in entangling alliances that lead to a long and bloody shooting war with no guarantee of victory, or even of national gain.

And, of course, the larger issue here is that I have no faith whatsoever that the Trump administration is the one to navigate this diplomatic minefield. That takes political capital, and its lack of political capital is the very thing that it campaigned on. I mean, no less than six previous administrations refused to help a struggling republic in the face of overwhelming evil. For a split-second, I perceive the appeal of a Washington outsider.

...but then, political reality reasserts itself. I don't believe that receiving that call was simply some kind of gaffe; likewise, I don't believe that it represented some kind of calculated, four-dimensional chess. What I find most likely is the notion that this administration is attempting to use Taiwan as some kind of bargaining chip, and that is, in my view, a terrible mistake. The existence of Taiwan is a red line in the sand that the People's Republic will never acknowledge, because that would call into question the legitimacy of the Chinese government; and, like all illegitimate governments, the one thing they cannot bear is some dumbass saying "OMG! That dude has no clothes!"

I want to emphasize that I believe that I fully understand. I understand the dislike, distrust, and fear of the incoming administration. I understand the reflexive desire to resist everything that it tries to achieve. None of this helps me understand why my Facebook feed is currently full of white liberals beating the drum for the regime that attempted to exterminate my family.

"I find the mainland's insistence of ownership to be deeply troubling, and despite conciliatory voices on both sides, I find it impossible to credit that they will simply leave Taiwan alone indefinitely. If I have learned any fundamental truth about politics, it is that greedy and stupid is always finding new ways to be greedy and stupid. One day -- maybe tomorrow, maybe in twenty years -- they're going to make a move, and the real question then for Taiwan will be -- do they resist? Or do they submit?"

Friday, November 18, 2016

Faith and Works

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, "Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled," notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

James 2:14-17

In May of 2008, I was having a rough week: I'd spent a night in jail, my long-time girlfriend dumped me, and my latest show had been a flop. (That last one may not have been so unusual.) The last thing I wanted to do was conduct a tech rehearsal. But fifteen minutes into it, as I was talking through colors and washes and transitions, I was surprised to notice that I'd forgotten all of that -- I was relaxed, confident, decisive. In a confusing and uncertain world, ah! This was a process that I understood. I was relieved to have the work to do.

It was the first time I'd been clearly aware of that fact about myself, far from the last, and I've been reflecting on it a lot over the course of this election season, as I've been producing and writing and performing in a variety of a politically-themed shows. I was acutely conscious of it during an election-night fundraiser that I helped to produce. As the participants and audience were (unsurprisingly) left-leaning, I began to feel much like a funeral director, facilitating a process that I wasn't closely engaged in. (Indeed, as an alternate-party activist among liberals, I've been feeling a lot like I'm watching friends lose a beloved relative -- I can't share their grief, exactly, but I'm sorry as hell to witness it.)

I'll confess to being a bit bewildered -- three of our regulars declined to perform, one performer simply failed to show up, and of the remaining several expressed a desire for me to give them a way, any way, out of having to hit the stage. I appreciate that different artists have different responses to crisis, but this response is simply alien to me -- I'm so fucking grateful for the work.

(To be clear, it's not that I don't understand it. On election night 2008, after my show, I walked up and down Hennepin Avenue, punching telephone poles, until my knuckles were ripped and bloody. But I completed my goddamn set first.)

Granted, I may be a lot more acclimated to performing under ugly or hostile circumstances, but the comforting chaos of live performance is something that I can understand and (to some degree) control. If the alternative is drinking and grieving alone, I'd rather be trying to wrestle laughs out of a grieving crowd together. After all, if our profession has any true social or political function (and I am sincerely dubious that it does) -- surely it's that, in times of crisis, we can offer laughter and insight, comfort and context?

And what I found troubling is that my colleagues -- a pack of professional talkers if ever there was one -- in a moment of crisis, a moment when their words might have been able to provide something truly valuable to their audience -- their first instinct was to fall silent.

I was raised Catholic, and one of its tenets that remains central to my faith is the notion that we live in a fallen world, a world dominated by sin and greed and fear and hate and evil -- and that's why it's so incredibly important for each one of us to labor to improve it. We were reminded of that fact on Tuesday. What amazes me is that so many of my colleagues were shocked by the reminder. It's been said that my lack of emotional devastation is symptomatic of the fact that I don't take the threat of fascism seriously: my immediate thought is that their emotional devastation is a sign that they haven't been taking it seriously for some time.

My compatriots on the right have been observing (rightly, in my view) that the Democrats who have labored for decades to centralize and expand power in the executive branch are now reaping the bitter fruits of their short-sighted strategy. But even this seems short-sighted to me. After all, when Trump talks about a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States, what the hell even gives the President the authority to do that? The answer lies in the Alien and Sedition Acts, many of which are still on the books, which were passed by our second President, founding father and champion of liberty John Adams -- most likely as a means of silencing his political opponents. My intent isn't to draw some kind of false equivalence here, but to observe that the battle against authoritarianism and fascism isn't new, it's as old as civilization itself.

November 8th, 2016 was neither the beginning, nor the end, of anything. This is a battle that demands a lifelong commitment from every one of us. That is the price we pay to live in a constitutional republic.

One of the talking points among the left right now is that the election results mean that it's time to get to work. To which I can only say, uh -- were we supposed to have stopped? Over the past few years, I've signed my petitions and made my donations. I've toured the country. I wrote a book. I've attended conventions and festivals. I've produced fundraisers. On many of those endeavors, I lost money; on many more, I faced down hostile and belligerent audiences. I have exploited every opportunity I could find to create a space and a platform for the marginalized voices that so many of colleagues are currently mocking and vilifying. I have upraised my tiny, ineffectual fist to the best of my ability, and in at least this respect (if not in far too many others), my conscience is clear.

I don't plan to get to work, because I never stopped working. I plan to continue working exactly as hard as I would have if the Democrats had swept the House and Senate. I've already got some ideas for 2018 and 2020 that I've started research on. And praise God for that, because I don't know what I'd do without the work.

I share my colleagues' fear and concern for the damage that this unified legislature can do. But I'm also troubled by the moral damage we can do to ourselves, and our cause, in that fight. When I see the vitriol that many of them are unleashing on social media -- when I see them justify that vitriol as necessary -- when I see them characterize traits like empathy and compassion as weakness -- when I see them lionize themselves for their courage in abandoning those traits -- losing political power is one thing. But I also worry about losing our political soul. Rage is one thing, and one thing that I believe in (witness this entire blog) -- hate is entirely another. I know, from humiliating experience, that that is a very dark, very ugly path to go down. After all, if November 8th taught us anything, it's that we can't control anything -- nothing, except our own speech and actions, surely?

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Mark 8:36-37

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Few Words

To the audience before a libertarian comedy show, on Sunday, June 12th, 2016:, uh, this morning was horrible.

I assume that we've all heard the news, about what happened in Orlando last night? It's obviously devastating -- I have a number of colleagues on the Fringe circuit who hail from the area. And I'm sure we're all still reeling.

In the coming weeks, we're going to be hearing from a lot of very loud and very angry people, because yelling is how some people grieve. Which I get! I of all people get that. We're going to be hearing a lot of opinions about things like immigration, and terrorism, and the Second Amendment, and homophobia. I just want to make it absolutely clear, at the top of this show, that tonight, we are going to be discussing none of those things.

The wounds are still raw. I am not mentally or emotionally equipped right now to riff on what happened. And, frankly, I'm not qualified to analyze all of the implications of what went down last night.

I am, however, supremely qualified to stand on this stage, and tell you some stories, and tell you some jokes, about my life as a political outsider. If that's something that is somehow useful to you today, then for the next hour, I've got your back. Let's get started.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

It's Almost Comical

So two-time New Mexico governor Gary Johnson has just been nominated as the Libertarian Party's 2016 presidential candidate, to the surprise of none. (Well, to the surprise of no one paying attention to this particular corner of the political fringe. I imagine it *is* to the surprise of many asking "Wait, there's a third party?") (L/l)ibertarians of every stripe are going apeshit, while the mainstream media is -- weirdly enough -- actually paying some attention this time, if only because the Sanders/Trump campaigns betray a nationwide longing for an anti-establishment candidate, and you can't get more anti-establishment than a party that has never held that particular office.

Which is why it's weird that the party picked its most establishment nominee. I mean, perhaps not all that weird -- this is the same party that, in a burst of dadaist madness, nominated disgruntled Republican and drug warrior Bob Barr in 2008. But that's always been one of the many tug-of-wars in the movement -- that there's the half that wants to try to win with a well-groomed, soft-spoken white guy in a suit. I call this half the Republican Lites (greater taste, less killing), the ones who are desperate to appear both moderate and presidential, the ones who quiver in horror and barely-concealed rage at members that regularly pull shit like this.

It's this Urkel-like outsider craving for majority approval that leads us to nominate the Barrs and Johnsons. I mean, to be clear, I don't hate the guy. There's much about him to admire: he's a legitimate athlete and adventurer who has conquered every one of the Seven Summits, square-jawed, heroic: he's Captain Fucking America.

My skepticism is that I don't think we can ever win this battle. Voters who want establishment will vote establishment. They don't want to watch us ape Republican respectability when they can get the real thing for free. (Incidentally, *I* don't want to watch us ape Republican respectability, because I loathe both of those things.)

The one advantage that an alternate party has in a fight is that we *don't* have to obsess over every word, gesture, and costume faux pas. We don't have to watch our electability with a microscope, because, well...we don't have any. There isn't going to be a President Johnson in 2017. (Which does not render the campaign pointless! The goal is to grow the party to the point at which it does become a viable alternative, not to win every election immediately. Though, that said, I'm troubled by the notion that growing the party to that point means throwing out every principle that defines it.)

The other half of the tug-of-war is the rockstar libertarians -- the ones who say, fuck it, let's drop those truth bombs and who gives a shit if it alienates the suburban demographic? The Republican-Lites claim that embracing this is frivolously throwing away our credibility. I say that *not* embracing this is frivolously throwing away the single unique thing we have to offer the country. It's not about pretending the circus doesn't exist, it's about stepping up to be the ringmaster.

The champion of the rockstars, in my view, has been none other than charming eccentric John McAfee, the unapologetic coke 'n' whores candidate. I mean, what's not to like? He's the libertarian fantasy, a billionaire playboy tech genius -- oh. God. Oh God.

He's Tony Stark.

So why keep backing these alternate-party losers? If we accept that the goal isn't to *win* this year, then the goal is to *grow*. That requires media attention, and that's the thing that Team Iron Man is particularly good at. Especially in a campaign as carnivalesque as this one, media attention is everything. Who else do we have that's prepared to take on this shady, balding billionaire with a pathological hatred of illegal aliens -- oh. Oh, no.

Oh God no.

Hey hey! Updating this dusty blog because, once again, it's an election year, and, once again, I'm hitting the road with some political comedy. In the coming week, I'll be performing at the Atlanta Fringe Festival. If you're in the Georgia area, I hope to see you there -- if you're not, check out my political humor collection!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Indecision when? Indecision NOW, motherfuckers.

I wrote a book.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for the author of a book about indecision, my feelings regarding this are...complex.

- I've toured my material to the other side of the globe. I've managed teams of 30+ people in my ensemble shows. I've stared down hecklers and hostile audiences for my entire adult life. But as someone who grew up a geeky bibliophile, holding less than a pound of paper in my hands somehow feels like more of a real accomplishment to me than everything else.

- It also feels strange to regard these 140 pages of dick jokes as an accomplishment, in light of the sheer volume of what I produce on a regular basis. I'm a prolific writer/performer, and I'm confident that -- in terms of at least quantity -- I've written dozens of books over the years. Moreover, that's material that's been through the live-fire forge of strangers' apathy and enmity for over a decade.

- While I view having audience-honed material as my greatest advantage as an inaugural author, I also think it's important not to overestimate its value. What works on the stage can't simply be transcribed onto the page. And I'm not just talking about my reliance on the meaningful look or the spontaneous ad-lib -- I mean that the material typically has to be dramatically *restructured* before it's something that flows naturally for the eye, as well as the ear.

- It also feels strange, because this is a project that I've been living with for a long, long time. In 2005, I sat down to compile my comedy writing and realized that, without my explicit intention, it was almost entirely political. That manifested as a sketch comedy that I produced in 2006 and 2008, and later adapted to a comedy CD in 2014.

- Kickstarted by a combination of what I viewed to be many of my colleagues' unblinking endorsement of their majority culture with a disheartening trip to my ancestral homeland, the heart of Communist China, I began blogging my analyses of macroeconomics and current events in 2006.

- In 2008, I commissioned a photographer whom I held in high regard to help me photograph a book cover. I also commissioned a foreword from the then-chair of the state Libertarian Party. This book has been on the verge of being finalized/released for seven years.

- Having reinvented myself as a storyteller, I sat down with my comedy writing again in 2011 and, again, found it to be almost entirely political. This manifested itself as a solo comedy show, which I workshopped in an Irish pub shortly before the 2012 election and toured more widely in 2014.

- One thing that I'm saying here is that I'm a great believer in the unconscious process. I think that sitting down and saying "I am going to write a libertarian book" would have resulted in something dreadful; by simply trying to entertain, the political aspect of my writing has been a more organic expression of my observations and general state of mind.

- Consequently, the book feels less like a single, coherently-conceived message or moral than it does like a cross-section of my brain for the past decade, and of the surreal experience of being an alternate-party supporter across two Presidential administrations and every geographic region of these United States.

- It's also posed a unique marketing challenge, in the sense that I have as much objectivity about this particular project as I do about being an adult human since the turn of the millennium.

- I think it's funny. I know it's angry. I hope that, in at least a handful of places, it's profound. I promise you that it's conflicted. And I believe that being conflicted is not anything like a bad thing.

- If the book has a single message or moral, that's it.

I've got a book launch party on -- when else? -- Tax Day. Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Rage Across America Tour: Summation

At long last, the tour is done. I'll be using this last post to collate all of my online detritus related to it.


0:35     KC Fringe Promo. The place is crowded and I didn't have a mic, so it's damn-near inaudible, but in the interest of completeness here's a clip of me plugging my show when I arrived in KC.

1:30     2014 Fringe Participant Interview. A brief promo I did of my show with the Hollywood Fringe in LA.

2:22     MN Fringe Preview. Live promo I did with Matt Allex of Vilification Tennis. This was singled out by Graydon Royce of the Star Tribune as "solidly on the nice list."

2:37     Jumpin' Jack Kerouac Trailer. Trailer for a dance show I'm performing in in Minneapolis.

2:50     Jumpin' Jack Kerouac Preview. Live promo I did with the rest of the cast.

4:43     Indefinite Articles Trailer. Trailer I put together for the show some months ago.

5:37     The Calof Series. Promotional video for a storytelling series at Patrick's Cabaret that features about a minute of me workshopping one of the stories from the show.


1:00:01     Obsessed with Joseph Scrimshaw. A podcast interview I did in LA about J.R.R. Tolkien and his influence on my work.

1:49:47     Apropos of Nothing. Rather embarrassingly, I get even drunker than usual on this one and it rapidly devolves into us shouting slurred arguments over each other. That does seem to be what this audience comes for, however.


03/23/2014     Story SlamMN! Interview. An interview I did with Paula Reed Nancarrow about competitive storytelling.

06/09/2014     Reddit AMA. I impulsively did an AMA (Ask Me Anything) in which I answered online questions from strangers about my career.

06/25/2014     Libertarian Rage as Theater. A rather confrontational interview I did with Stubble, a local men's magazine.

07/07-11/2014     Word Sprout Blog (Part One, Part Two, and Part Three). A series of essays about storytelling that I wrote for a local spoken-word organization.

07/18/2014     Friend a Day. A surprisingly glowing profile by local comedian Tim Wick from a series in which he writes kind things about people he knows.

05/30-09/23/2014     Libertarian Rage Blog (Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, and Part Six). Reflections on the tour.


Natasha Lewin, Tolucan Times, Los Angeles: "...a healthy blend of outrage and amusement. Just like the hulk on a bad day, [low] is an angry man, and makes a damn good point showing why we should be too. American political system - SMASH!"

Matthew Everett, Twin Cities Daily Planet, Minneapolis: "...he' enough to know...that anyone who claims to have such certainty is either a fool, or dangerous, or both. He lives to knock people off kilter, not for the joy of seeing people off balance, or the display of power that might be involved. He wants people to be constantly thinking, questioning, and hopefully laughing rather than crying about the absurdity of it all while they're at it."

Kate Hoff, Twin Cities Daily Planet, Minneapolis: "He's either crazy or a genius or a crazy genius..."

Rachel Reiva, Twin Cities Daily Planet, Minneapolis: "He has a commanding presence, his jokes are hilarious, and he gives an intimate look into a libertarian state of mind."

Jay Harvey, Upstage, Indianapolis: "Liberation through extreme tastelessness may be Low's most powerful self-help prescription."


Hollywood Fringe Audience Reviews (3, no star average): " intimate and emotionally raw piece with moments of humanity that transcend political affiliations."

KC Fringe Audience Reviews (2, 4/5 average): "...low's refreshing quest for intellectual humility survives for me as the most memorable theme."

Minnesota Fringe Audience Reviews (6, 3/5 average): "There's still much wit to recommend it, but I found his forays into crass sexual humor and political rage awkward and ultimately fruitless."


As usual, I also wrote several reviews for both the TC Daily Planet and mnartists, collated at this link. 

...and there it is, folks: for better or worse, much of the last year of my life. Onto the next folly!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Rage Across America Tour: Postamble

"Our fellow citizens had fallen into line, adapted themselves, as people say, to the situation, because there was no way of doing otherwise. Naturally they retained the attitudes of sadness and suffering, but they had ceased to feel their sting. Indeed, to some...this precisely was the most disheartening thing: that the habit of despair is worse than despair itself."

- Albert Camus, The Plague

Well, that was a not-insignificant chunk of my life and career.

One of the major obstacles I've had to any kind of successful branding is my predilection for genre-hopping -- up next for me (and I'll hold off on the official announcement for a few more weeks) is my take on some squeaky-clean children's fantasy, and the audience I've built over the past few months is unlikely to follow me to it.

It's been a few years since I really dug into straight-up political satire, and it'll probably be a few more years before I plumb that well again -- until I, y'know, have something more to say on the subject. Of the genres I play with, it's by far the most exhausting. It requires the cultivation of a sharp tongue and a cynical outlook, and while I absolutely believe in the moral importance of rage -- its darker sister, as Camus well knows, is despair -- it's difficult to sustain that level of anger. Particularly for someone as introverted as me.

Like most of my projects, the end-product wasn't so much a goal as a by-product of an existing process. This was my attempt to compile some of my most successful short pieces in one place -- not an attempt to sit down and write a political show, but to recognize that a huge proportion of my comedy writing is political. I remain bewildered by the fact that the material that has consistently killed it with spoken-word crowds (one of the pieces placed me in MN Story Slam Finals) was so challenging to sell outside of that demographic.

So what's different? Two things leap out at me:

1) the environment. Most of these sets were developed in front of late-night crowds -- pubs 'n' clubs -- where the audience was generally young, knocking back a few drinks, and looking to have a good time. That's a different experience from the more formal one of reserving a ticket and sitting down in a darkened theatre.

Most notably, many of the audiences I performed for seemed to be actively looking to have a bad time, staring daggers and seething hostility before I opened my mouth. Which, I mean, I can handle audience hostility, but it raises the question: why were they there in the first place?

Actually, this I think I get -- I get the impulse to seek out entertainment to hate-watch. I was an avid listener to Air America back in the day -- I would drive, scream, swear, and pound the steering wheel. That rush of adrenalin that anger brings can feel fantastic, and I'm indebted to the radio network for birthing many of the stories in the show.

So, hey, if I was serving that function for the audience, I'm happy to take my place in the circle of rage. the ciiiiiiiircle of raaaaaage

2) but the bigger factor, I suspect, is packaging. It's one thing to be out for a night of entertainment, and to have some guy appear in front of you cracking political jokes, many of which happen to libertarian. It's another thing entirely to grit your teeth and buy a ticket to see a libertarian comic.

Not only is that a tougher sell, but that marketing re-contextualizes all of the individual jokes. Didactic or not, the stories become so when the title implies a message. Which, y'know, I'm disinclined to shy away from, but dem's the breaks.

But, yeah, I'm wiped -- more so than I usually am at the end of a tour -- and it's largely because I once again utterly failed to properly market this thing. One question I get asked a lot on the road is "Don't you get tired of the material?" ...and my answer is usually no, I wouldn't do it if I didn't love it. I do, however, grow exceedingly tired of the wildly erratic crowds. Any performer will tell you that, while a large crowd buoys you, a thin one just sucks the energy out of you -- you have to work that much harder to keep the room alive. And for several stretches of this particular tour, I was working very, very hard.

It spreads, too, to other aspects of the experience. If you've got a hit show, then everybody's your best friend. If your material is struggling, no one will look twice at you. I had one defining experience, with another political comic whom I thought I was getting along quite well with. During one post-show drinking session, I made some crack, and he did a double-take, stating "I thought the libertarian thing was ironic." Er, no, I responded -- and he then looked away, avoiding me for the rest of the week.

But, y'know? This is all bruised-ego shit, and my ego has proven to be not unlike Prometheus' liver in its ability to continually regenerate itself. The exhaustion will pass, the psychic wounds will heal, and the frustrations will fade. So what will I remember?

I'll remember the fact that, after nearly every show I've done for the past couple of months, I've had at least one person pull me aside to try to express their shared rage, their loneliness, their frustrated idealism. I had one guy grab me firmly by the hand, look me in the eye with somewhat alarming intensity, and say "Most people aren't going to get what you're doing here. But it's important." And putting aside for the moment my usual cynicism (i.e. how important can it possibly be if most people aren't getting it?) -- I can't pretend I wasn't a little moved.

I've now been doing political comedy long enough to get the fact that politics in popular culture are cyclical. Right now, libertarianism -- particularly in the liberal arts world -- is an object of scorn. But that doesn't mean that all the impassioned libertarians go away. We're still here, even if there doesn't seem to be a place for us in the zeitgeist right now. And if I can provide a space for us to step back, point at the soul-crushing, hellishly absurd nightmare that our economic and electoral system has become, and laugh -- then that's something I can feel proud of on my deathbed.

I'll do one more compilation of online writing next week, just so it's all in one place. Before I go, I couldn't resist sharing this: a word cloud I put together from all of my First Amendment Box responses. If you want a cross-section of the country's collective unconscious, this is my contribution.