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Why I Don’t Perform Comedy As Often

Man Looking at Watch

So for those who don’t know, occasionally I do comedy. And I like it. And people, by and large, enjoy when I do it.

So why don’t I do it more often?

 

I get this question a lot, and in fact, I ask myself this question a lot.

Or at least I used to, when I first started in comedy. Initially, my answer was common to a lot of comics — it’s hard to find the right opportunity to get up. Unless you’re in just the right situation, it can be a chore finding places to perform.

You can go to a bunch of open mics, but open mics aren’t necessarily a great place to be, because they’re full of other comics, most of whom are, to be polite, less than skilled. They range from being doe-eyed neophytes who can’t believe they’re actually doing this!! to angry, bitter, lazy or stoned hacks who think audiences won’t notice if you recycle the same five jokes about drugs, sexuality or religion into endless permutations of dreck. Sitting through that, night after night, week after week, can wear on you.

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A Modest Proposal to Protect the Confederate Flag

modest proposal

To Whom It May Concern,*

 

Ladies and gentlemen, the Confederate flag, a symbol of southern pride and heritage for generations, is under attack.

Because of one isolated incident with a mentally ill young man who just happened to be seen with the flag several days before gunning down nine African-Americans at a random church, suddenly everyone wants to pile on and act like the flag is some sort of magic talisman of hate that can instantly turn our children into racist, homicidal maniacs, rather than the piece of historical lore that it is.

As a result, there is a lot of talk, not only of removing the flag from the South Carolina capitol building, but of banning it altogether.

This, to me, is unacceptable. Rather than seeking to ban the Confederate flag, we need to be doing more to protect it.

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Why #GamesSoWhite Is A Problem (And What You Can Do About It)

witcher 3 geralt

#GamesSoWhite.

If you don’t play video games, this hashtag probably hasn’t crossed your social media feed… or if it has, you may not understand what it means or why it exists. Such is the challenge of any kind of hashtag activism — it’s difficult to have meaningful exchanges when limited to 140 characters or less.

Consequently, there is a lot of miscommunication, misunderstanding and misinformation going on with #GamesSoWhite, much like what happened with the incredibly controversial #GamerGate controversy from 2014. Unlike GamerGate, which many video game enthusiasts used as a rallying cry to marshall support toward protecting their turf, #GamesSoWhite has become a target of many of those same gamers, who are doing their best to discredit, disprove or shout down the ideas behind the hashtag.

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Beats and Air and Life

AngryClouds
This is a poem that I wrote during a guided writing exercise led by Seth Haines at this year’s Faith & Culture Writers Conference at Warner Pacific College.
I do not write many poems, but this one came to me as I gazed outside and watched the wind blow.
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Please, I Beg You, Don’t Let Your Kids Do This

baby-wearing-headset_c455cb85-e82b-4219-9e9c-febd60dd27ef

If I had my druthers*, here’s what I’d do.

I’d hire Kevin Spacey and the production crew behind House of Cards to shoot a public service announcement.

It would look something like this.

 

*druthers, by the way, is shorthand for “if any of my creative projects go massively huge and I suddenly have the means to be financially independent,” which itself is bourgie shorthand for, “if I win the lottery.”

 

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RACIST SUPERHEROES: A Comedic Origin Story

racist superheroes

So here’s the deal.

I’ve been doing comedy for about two years now (actually writing comedy for three years, performing it for two) and the bit that I personally think is my best is one that I like to call “Racist Superheroes.”

Now unfortunately, I don’t perform in venues often where I can get good video, so I don’t have a good recording of this bit yet (though there are plenty of others you can watch — and besides, I can’t give away the whole store, otherwise you have no incentive to come out and see me live).

However, I haven’t done much writing about my comedy yet, and recently a friend was asking me about how I come up with my routines. Given that I’m scheduled to give a talk on this very subject at the Faith & Culture Writer’s Conference in a few weeks, I figured this post would be a good way to get the juices flowing and give you an insider view on what my creative process looks like.

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Be Careful How You “Deal With It,” Dame

damian-lillard

 

 

So now, it’s official.

The NBA has selected DeMarcus Cousins to take the place of the injured Kobe Bryant, which means that we can officially say that Damian Lillard, master of the step-back three, end-of-game assassin, and the object of countless internet memes, like this:

 

…has officially been snubbed from the 2015 NBA All-Star team.

 

 

For once, I agree with Kanye.

 

 

This is, according not only to Portland fans but knowledgeable pundits around the league (including TNT’s “Inside the NBA” resident curmudgeon and non-jumpshooting-team-supporter Charles Barkley) a ridiculous miscarriage of justice, deserving not only of all manner of shrill internet complaints, but in the case of the Portland police department, an actual robbery investigation.

Not to take anything away from other players, but across the blogosphere and the Twitterverse, the consensus is that Lillard well-deserving of this All-Star nod. And it’s important to remember that despite the league’s fan-based selection process, the All-Star Game is not just a popularity contest, but an important progress metric in the overall career trajectory of an NBA player. Getting snubbed for an All-Star team is like being passed-over for a well-deserved promotion at the office. And it doesn’t matter whether this happens in a small office or on the brightest stage of professional sports, people will notice.

So yes, Lillard was robbed. Among reasonable people, there is virtually no disagreement.

Where I do differ from the masses, however, is in how Lillard can, should, or will respond.

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The One Where Jelani Introduces Himself.

jelani kitteh photo 9224
I recently started writing for a publication called Off the Page, from the creators of the popular Our Daily Bread devotional series. It’s a new forum for me to start talking about my favorite examples from pop culture and to show how the Bible can be relevant to everyday life. Anyway, I thought it might be important for any new readers to get a sense of who I am if they’re new to my writing, so I wrote this piece as an introduction.

 

You know how sitcoms always have that one episode full of flashbacks?

Growing up, I always loved those to watch those episodes, mostly because they always included scenes I hadn’t seen yet. I didn’t grow up with DVRs or video on demand, so the only way I could ensure that I saw every episode of my favorite series was to make sure I was in front of the TV at the same time every week — which rarely happened. (And that was assuming my behavior was good enough to warrant TV-watching-privileges that day.)

So yeah, those clip shows were always showing me what I’d missed along the way.

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If You Love American Music, You Have Andraé Crouch to Thank

andrae-crouch
(Editor’s Note: Yes, the title is a bit clickbaitey, but hang with me. I’ll back it up.)

 

Yesterday, Andraé Crouch slipped into eternity, present in full with the Lord, in perfect peace.

I’ve been half suspecting, half dreading that this day would come for a while now, and yet now that it has, I still feel completely unprepared — probably because it’s hard for me to imagine a musical landscape where Andraé Crouch was not still creating such soul-stirring, inventive, revolutionary music.

Part of the reason why it’s always profoundly bothered me when I hear someone make the blanket declaration that “Christian music sucks” is that it never tracked with my reality.

Because how could it? Sure, my parents played Earth Wind & Fire like any self-respecting Black people did, but my childhood musical diet consisted mostly of Christian music, from luminaries like The Winans, Walter, Edwin & Tramaine Hawkins, The Imperials, and then much later, Commissioned (then eventually as a teen and college student, Fred Hammond). But towering above them all was Andraé Crouch, a man who I would later come to realize was a musician’s musician — that is, the kind of musician that other great musicians consulted, collaborated with, and gathered around.

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How to Get Away With Character Assassination

Viola Davis Bill Cosby

It seems altogether coincidental that on that day that most of the blogosphere has been continuing to come to terms with the growing, controversial specter of truth behind the myriad rape allegations leveled against Bill Cosby — a day so full of bittersweet reverie that the term “throwback Thursday” seems so wonderfully appropriate despite such quaint understatement — that I ended it by watching the fall finale of the ABC hit drama, “How to Get Away With Murder.”

It seems that way because, well, it is, mostly, a coincidence.

I happen to like the show quite a bit, actually. I started watching mostly out of curiosity, and also because Viola Davis has been far and away the best thing in pretty much everything I’ve seen her in since The Help. And since I was also a fan of Shonda Rhimes’ second megahit “Scandal,”  and because I try to support quality black entertainment with my clicks and views, I figured I’d give it a shot.  It’s been kind of uneven, and there’s been too many tawdry sex scenes, but I am still enthralled with the central premise, which, like Snakes On A Plane, is neatly encapsulated in the title.