Three-Minute Standup Routine: Squatty Potties

 

I have one of those liberal arts degrees that turned out not quite as useful as university recruitment would have you believe.  It’s been five years since graduation and I have yet to work in my field.  I’m not bitter though—college was the most fun I’ve ever had with $60,000.

The most intense learning I did in college was during my study abroad.  Never one to do things halfway, I took an entire year and went to China.  It was there that I learned my most valuable life lesson:

Before you pee, secure your TP.

Toilets in China were in general an adventure.  Only private homes have Western-style toilets, while public areas or dormitories have “squatty potties.”  These vary in style, ranging from clean porcelain below-floor plumbing to poop troughs.

However, once you become… I won’t say used to it, you never become used to it… acclimated to squatty potties, they seem practical.  Do you want to put your bare ass on something that half of a BILLION people could have their bare ass on?

The grossest toilet I encountered in China was on a boat traveling from Yantai to Dalian.  This was the poop trough that I mentioned earlier.  To maximize efficiency they had created one long recessed channel into which you could do your business, and then sectioned it off with three rickety stalls.  As I straddled the trough, I could see the leavings of previous stall tenants and as I saw to my purpose there, I heard a rumble…  A tidal wave of toilet water came rushing from behind me, splashing and roaring and pushing all of the waste away.  Apparently this was a regular occurrence, but not regular enough.  The air was so thick with smell that my eyes watered.

The strangest toilet I encountered was is Sichuan province, not far from the famous lakes of Jiuzaigou, which you might remember from the lake fight scene in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  Since the area is karst, any detritus would enter the pristine lakes.  Some ecological group had therefore donated a latrine, which at first could easily be mistaken for a grounded UFO, if UFOs were designed by 1960’s scifi writers with a PVC fetish.  The toilet used no water, but instead had a strange swallowing motion like the sandpit monster from Star Wars.

Any water that was conserved by the toilet was negated by the massive use of plastic, made all the worse by the Chinese reaction to the waterless flush, which was to do it three more times, finally taking a cell phone video.

The greatest difficulty I had with squatty potties was aim.  As a female, the adjustment from toilet to hole in the ground was a process of trial… and error.  I could not get my stream to gracefully cascade into the bowl at my feet.  Instead, it spastically jerked around until it was ON my feet.

And being a Westerner, I was too embarrassed to ask for advice.  Instead, I widened my stance like a cowboy from Blazing Saddles.

Should you ever travel to the Middle Kingdom I have to pieces of advice:  First, face the stall door.  This is less based on the physics of using a squatty potty and more about stall defense.  In this position you are prepared to slam the door shut should an impatient local decide you’re taking too long.  Also, for those of you who are female, wear flip-flops your first few times using a squatty potty.

That way you won’t have to wash out your socks.

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On What Others Think of Me Doing Stand-up

Both Fry and I should know better than to seek pointless reassurance!
Yeah, this is sort of how I felt. That’s what you get for asking.

Some dangerous combination of self-doubt, curiosity, and the possession of a working cell phone led me to text people who knew me well to see what they thought of me possibly doing stand-up comedy.

The results were mixed:

My little brother:

Me: Think I could do stand-up comedy?
Brother: I would laugh at you
Me: AT me, or with me???
Brother: 🙂
Brother: depends on how well you did
Me: …how very honest
Brother: I would laugh with brotherly love
Me: aw

A College Friend:

Me: So, think I could do stand-up comedy?
Friend: Have any material?
Me: …working on that.
Friend: Or a set of topics you want to be known for.
Friend: ?
Me: Not yet. I guess that’s something I should have, huh?
Friend: Well, I’ll book ya a gig, kid, when you get me a tape.

My Former Boss:

Me: So, think I could do stand-up comedy?
Former Boss: Yeah!!
Me: Thanks! You are in the minority, it would seem…
Former Boss: Nah, you have many talents!! 😉

A Good Friend:

Me: Think I can do stand-up comedy?
Friend: Did you think you could do a webcomic? (Note: failed venture of mine)
Me: Yes…
Friend: Stick to your guns
Me: Not sure I’m to be trusted with firearms, but thanks for the encouragement. 😛

My Ex:

Me: Think I could do stand-up comedy?
Ex: Haha, you’re really looking hard for part time jobs, eh?

I think the most helpful response I got was from the best friend of my college boyfriend, now a close friend–he’s a reprobate that up and joined the Peace Corps.
Me: Think I could do stand-up comedy?

Reformed Sinner:  Well it’s a performing art and you are a performer. but you are usually the straight man so you’d have to work on your set ups

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I thought that was astute.  Looking back on my conversations with friends, I always play the role of the “weirded out one.”  Maybe I should study actors like Vince Vaughn (who went to my high school) or Jason Bateman.  Not sure who the female equivalent might be–maybe Tina Fey?

If anyone has any advice regarding how a straight man does a solo act, I would love to hear it!

On Stand-up Comedy Lessons

I live in Blacksburg, which is (undeservedly) not known for its comedy scene.  We do sustain one comedian, Anthony Quinn (http://www.quinnqomedy.com/quinn/home.html), while tantalizing others.

Anthony is generous enough to offer a comedy workshop for free.  I would say it’s been running for about a year, and I had seen enough of the “amateur” shows to know that I actually preferred them to the “working” comics who wandered into town for a night.

It was always in the back of my mind at these shows: Could I do something like this?

No.

No, I thought, I could never be that funny–I wouldn’t have anything to say, or worse, I’d stray into a political rant and be hoisted from the bar for Libertarian Ignorance.

But I kept going to the shows whenever I could catch one.  Scott, who I consider a friend in spite of the odd circumstances that threw us together (think online dating, but not to each other), performs regularly and I enjoy his shows despite not getting some/most/all of his Star Wars jokes.

So with beginning this blog, I felt that I had to rise to the challenge.  I contacted Anthony through Facebook–it’s a small enough town that we were friends despite never having had a conversation–and he told me that there was a meeting I could attend.

Today.

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Anthony Quinn: Sometimes he's really got a point.
This is one of Anthony Quinn’s press photos.

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Anthony Quinn is a controversial comedian in the town of Blacksburg (which is overwhelmingly white.)  He’s constantly pushing people’s buttons about race, making some think more about how they feel on deep issues, and others uncomfortable and/or belligerent.  Recently, he’s begun another blog that I enjoy–a series of short essays from the point of view of his wife, Rachel–he calls it, “Diary of a White Wife.”  ( http://diaryofawhitewife.com/ )

His onstage persona is larger than life and a bit confrontational, so I wasn’t sure what the session would be like.

It was awesome.

Since it was summer and a Sunday the turn-out wasn’t high, which was exactly what I needed.  I’d seen Scott and Chris onstage before, but I hadn’t met Tracey or the two newer members yet.  Chris had brought his girlfriend with him, and oddly enough, it was she who set me at ease–we chatted briefly about shoes, and Goodwill, topics on which, I must admit, my knowledge is vast.

But as we got into the thick of things, I received great advice regarding comedy:

  •  Write lots, and then edit down to your time.
  • Think of things that are true to only you and talk about those.
  • You want the experience of the audience to be something that only you could deliver.

Anthony more or less assigned me a three-minute piece.  He said I don’t have to get it done before Wednesday’s session, but I’m already writing it.

Overall, it seems like a welcoming group of witty outcasts.  There’s the mom, the film editor, the funny-but-slightly-out-of-it girl, the hipster, the professor, and Anthony.  And now me.

On My Eating Habits

To say that I wrestle with my eating habits is an understatement.  My grandmother, a notorious cookie-pusher, will yell at me to “leave some for her” after I have a go at her tray of Double-Stuff E.L.Fudges.  You know those cookies?  They’re little butter biscuits shaped like the Keebler elves that sandwich a fat glob of chocolate frosting.  I introduced my diabetic grandmother to them and for that amongst many reasons, I’m headed to hell.  They’re now her Drug of Choice.
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My mom’s dog, Ditka, wants to eat garbage.  He loves the trash, especially paper products, his favorite being used Kleenex.  If you turn your back on him for even a second, he’ll be pulling out the trash drawer so he can stand on his hind legs to dip his nose into the garbage, frantically choking down whatever it comes into contact with in an attempt to down something before you notice.  Why does he do this?  If he eats anything other that his expensive sensitive-stomach bison and rice dog food, he’ll puke.  Everything he so surreptitiously consumed will come hurling back up.  He sees no connection between eating garbage and the physical distress he suffers.
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 A Cute, But Devious, Dog
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“Stupid dog.” I’ll say as I clean up another puddle of digestive fluid and snotty Kleenex, “Will you never learn this junk is bad for you?”  And then I’ll go over to my parent’s cupboard and grab a tub of Betty Crocker’s Rich and Creamy Triple Chocolate Fudge Chip Frosting (which features real Hershey’s chocolate!) and I’ll eat it by the spoonful as I stand there in my too-tight biggest pair of jeans.
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 Betty Crocker and I are in a codependent relationship.
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And this, children, is what we call irony.
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The Anti-Francophone Manifesto

Rather than begin to export their abundant natural resource, letters of the alphabet, the oft-xenophobic French have elected to insert completely unnecessary letters into their words, sometimes adding entire syllables that will never be read aloud.

Until this violation of fair trade ends and the French agree to export consonants to Hawaii and vowels to the Czech Republic, I have no choice but to protest this frivolous waste of a precious commodity by a complete boycott of the French language!

On Starting a Blog at Five AM

Sometime around 4:30 AM, 23 hours since waking, I decided that it would be a great idea to learn to be funny.  Beyond the obvious causes of sleep deprivation and caffeine overdose, there weren’t clear reasons for this.

I am not attempting to be funny for any of the traditional reasons:

  • to distract from weight gain
  • to get laid
  • to break the ice at a business conference
  • to stay a death sentence

Instead, I have a nobler and more nebulous goal: self-improvement.

While I consider myself a writer, my genre is horror–my characters suffer dismal fates cursed by insanity and unseen demons, hardly the stuff of gut-busting, page-turning comedy.

So join me as I learn to be humorous in the only way I know how: through study and practice.  Feel free to comment if you have any suggestions, and I’m easily reached at christinecous[at]gmail.com should you have any lengthier comments that shouldn’t be accessed by children or those weak of stomach.

Don't look directly in its eyes
This is what determination looks like at 5:30 AM. This is a face that longs to be funny.