Wait For It… a blog by Andy Ross

Smoothest Jazz

Posted on May 20, 2011

Smooth Jazz

The Lightest Jazz in the World was played on January 12th, 1994 by Freddy Hirschbaum and the Velvet Cats. It happened in the basement of the Horizons Jazz Club and Cigar Bar in Toronto, Canada, and it changed the course of history.

Light jazz had been played before. Of course it had. But never this light, never this smooth. Listeners of that evening’s set described the first note as "whipped margarine gently tilted into our ears."

It was jazz so gentle and inoffensive, so soft and subtle that the tabletop candles no longer flickered---their flames now as still as crystal. Glassware stopped clinking; plumbing stopped clanking; existence seemed to pause in hushed contemplation.

It only got smoother from there---muted trombone, pianissimo piano, a clarinet solo spare and haunting. The beat tiptoed like whispered footsteps along sand dunes. One song blended into the next until it became not a playlist but what the Ancient Greeks called "the gossamer of Arachne."

Soon, jazz flowed so lightly it slipped between the cracks of space and time. The physical laws of our universe could no longer hold a groove this smooth. Specks of blinding blue light tore the air around the Velvet Cats. Freddy "Pudding Fingers" Hirschbaum dissolved into a fine mist. In a quiet “pop” the rest of the band vanished. Slowly, the sounds of the outside world intruded, and the audience wandered out, stunned and solemn.

Fifteen and a half years later, during a beach volleyball tournament along the Chicago lakeshore, a crackling boom split the calm. Dozens were blown off their feet by the shockwave. At the center of a large crater stood the Velvet Cats, or at least what remained of them.

Ropy and muscular, the jazz musicians twitched alertly. Matted beards bristled against hardened, leathery skin. Their black turtlenecks and tweed jackets hung around their waists as shredded loincloths. “Scats” Schulman carried an improvised crossbow crafted from his upright bass. The clarinetist squinted through his one remaining eye.

They told the story of a wasteland they called the Otherworld, where intelligent reptilian insects sought only death and fuel for their pagan pyres. These daemons worshipped the all-powerful demigod Grah’mun-Sep, a beast ten stories tall with eyes of fire and a hundred mouths, each with a thousand fangs.

Lakes of acid boiled underfoot, and nights brought psychic waves of dread. Hidden in their tiny cave, the Velvet Cats had fought off a creature they had named “the wolf fungus.” Freddy Hisrchbaum disappeared during a scavenging expedition. They assumed he’d been trapped for use as a living hatchery for the insectoids’ egglings.

What had been fifteen years here had been only a few months for the jazz band. Only a few had survived, living off what little the daemons left behind during their pillaging. Now, they had returned bringing warning.

Grah’mun-Sep had discovered the gateway torn open by the Lightest Jazz Ever Played. The daemon army was amassing in the Otherworld, fanged berserkers stretching beyond the dark the horizon. Our only hope was to arm ourselves for battle, while Scats Schulman composed some bebop powerful enough to close the breech.

The Earth’s destruction approached, and our world united in prayer for a boogie woogie bass line strong enough to save us...


Pigeon Names

Posted on May 18, 2011

Names I have given pigeons in my head:

- Motley

- Garbage Joe

- Stooly the Snitch

- Grindhouse

- Monopod Birdstrum

- ShadowWing

- Dovbert

- Squints

- Coo Boo

- The Claw

- Gray Ghost

- Brown Ghost

- Whitey

- Moltin’ Lava

- Poops Radley

- Toothpick

- Vermin Munster

- Gary


The Rapture

Posted on May 17, 2011


Hey, guys, it looks like another Apocalypse is coming up this Saturday. I know some people are a little suspicious of this May 21st deadline for the Rapture, but I for one am beginning to think this might be The Big One, and I'll tell you why:

First off, yesterday I saw a guy at Subway mowing down a foot-long tuna sub. And, at the time it sure seemed like a sign of the Apocalypse. I guess you had to be there, but he had this unkempt salt-and-pepper beard and droopy eyes, and he was just tearing into that tuna sandwich. Something about it was so creepy I could hear my heartbeat in my ears.

Then, there's that thing a few months ago with the flock of birds falling out of the sky. I know that "science" has multiple "scientific" explanations based on "facts" for that, but still ... Birds. Are. Dinosaurs.

Dinosaurs fell from the sky. Did you know that? Even your so-called evolution admits that that’s fucked up.

Also, the milk in my tea this morning formed the shape of a skull. My wife insisted it was a hot air balloon, but it was a grinning skull. Colleen, we both know it was a skull.

Aaaaaand, I recently watched the trailer for Kevin James’ upcoming movie Zookeeper, and it both horrified me and made me feel at peace. I suddenly realized that if there is indeed a just and benevolent God out there, surely he would end the world before we had to suffer through that film’s release.

These many signs (plus the billboards put up by evangelists who have nothing to gain by all this except for money) have convinced me the world will end this Saturday. I’m not sure what time. Noonish? I can get back to you on that.

So, blah blah blah, rapturous horror, words words words ... If you feel the need to make some last-minute charitable donations in order to get into Heaven, I have a Kickstarter campaign you can contribute towards. I’m trying to invent a hoverboard. Anyone who donates over $100 gets to come to the park and watch me use it once it's finished.

Anyhoo, good luck with all this,

P.S. Make sure you drop off your compost at the farmer's market first thing Saturday. Because, if you get taken up to Heaven in a blinding flash, who's gonna hand in your compost? The heathens? Heathens don't compost. HEATHENS DON'T COMPOST!!


Ingemar Johnasson

Posted on May 16, 2011

Trivial Pursuit

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared a true story about myself on this blog. I spend a lot of time as a storyteller around the city, including at the show I curate called Real Characters. So, I thought I’d include one here. We’ll see how it works in prose instead of performance. I hope you like it:

My family teases each other constantly. Bordering on torture. If someone misspeaks or embarrasses themselves, that misstep plants itself as a recurring leitmotif across all following conversations. There is a game to it, and fortunately, we're all good sports and generous laughers, even when we're the butt of the joke.

On one particular family vacation, when I was about twelve, my mother accidentally called our lunch destination Ruddfuckers. She immediately self-corrected, but to this day, every Fuddrucker’s, every Chili’s, every T.G.I.Friday’s or Bennigan’s or Applebee’s, every Ruby Tuesday’s or Bubba Gump Shrimp we drive past---it’s a Ruddfuckers.

That same night on that same vacation saw our final family game of Trivial Pursuit.

Every spring break until I was eighteen, my family---me, my older sister, my mom, my dad---would drive 1,000+ miles from Wisconsin to Kiawah Island, South Carolina. My parents chose Kiawah because our family friend/my pediatrician had given us a deal on his time share.

Kiawah is essentially clusters of condos built along a series of golf courses. None of us golfed, so instead we strapped four bikes to the roof of the minivan and packed as many paperbacks as we could carry.

We’d hole up inside a peach-colored condo with white wicker furniture and bleached white shells everywhere---shells on the dressers, on the windowsills, shells inside glass table lamps, shells glued to the picture frames that held painting of… starfish. Do starfish count as shells? How ‘bout sand dollars? Because, there were sand dollars everywhere, too.

My folks saved up their Dick Francis and John LaCarre; my sister read teen romances; and I read horrible fantasy novels filled with puns. We could have read at home, but we didn’t. That’s the point. We were a latchkey household, and all the rental fees and hours of driving were our only way of assuring quiet time together as a family.

Every night we played Trivial Pursuit in two teams---my dad versus the rest of us. We’d get back from eating at various chicken fingers purveyors and pull up the rattan furniture to the glass dining room table. We’d move aside the shell-motif centerpiece to make room for the board game, and my dad would destroy us.

He was the perfect age for the original Trivial Pursuit. It's questions skewed towards European monarchies and classic literature and Watergate. Things like D'Artagnan's horse's name were always on the tip of my dad's tongue, so to him Trivial Pursuit was a piece of cake. Six pieces, technically.

The rest of us liked the categories with questions about M*A*S*H.

Even accounting for the pop culture cards, we still lost by huge margins. Question after question, we would miss on easy ones, because we were frustrated and therefore trying too hard.

Dad, on the other hand, would pause and think through an answer. “Let’s see, who TKO'd Floyd Patterson for the 1959 World Heavyweight Championship? I guess, Sonny Listen---no wait, that was ’62. Patterson had won the belt back in ’60 from… Swedish boxer Ingemar Johansson. That’s my answer.”

That is the correct answer, by the way.

Which would just enrage my mom. My mother is a very smart woman---intelligent, well-educated. But, she’s also a non-linear thinker. (My wife says that my mom's stories are like listening to Abraham Simpson---she starts at the middle, gets to the beginning, and stumbles back to the middle.) Mom would get tripped up following the questions, and she’d make careless mistakes.

"What young actress had her breakout role in Mystic Pizza? Oh, she was in that movie with the guy who had the rumors about the gerbil. With the Porshe and the 'lights would be good here' line. Who was in that with him? Jason Alexander! That's our answer: Jason Alexander."

Finally, my dad had five pie pieces, cruising toward the win, and it’s our turn. Things have gotten desperate.

“What mammal lives at the highest altitude?” he asks.

My sister answers quickly, “Mountain goat.”

To which, my mom screams, “WAIT!! Let’s think this through... Is a goat a mammal?”

That was it; she was done for. Because of that one outburst, anytime---make that every time---over the last nineteen years the conversation stumbles across the word “goat” someone will yell out, “WAIT!!! IS A GOAT A MAMMAL?!!”

Petting zoos are rough on my mom.

There were more vacations, more paperbacks, but we never played Trivial Pursuit again. Eventually, my sister moved down to Texas and started a family. And, a couple of months after my wife and I moved to New York, my dad passed away. It was sudden and hard on everyone. Death is blunt and stupid.

We didn’t really joke with each other after that. I mean, there was some gallows humor here and there, but not much teasing, because we each assumed the others were fragile. Probably rightly so. It created a distance there that wasn’t about geography.

A few more months passed. Then, one morning, my mom sent my sister and me an email. It was a link to the New York Times obituary for Swedish boxer and former heavyweight champion Ingemar Johansson. The subject line of her email read, “Is a goat a mammal?”

We’ve been better since then.


Acting School

Posted on May 13, 2011


Welcome, students, to the Berbrowski Studio for the Actor. By coming here, you have chosen to pursue the bravest profession. Doctors, firefighters, lion cage repairmen---they all share their skills with the world. We share ourselves.

As you know, acting schools can be quite bewildering. Internalize, externalize, find the truth, find the beats, find your light... Here at the Berbrowski Studio, we have only one rule written by the great Gerhard Berbrowski: Don’t do that weird thing with your mouth.

Simple, elegant, true. This principle has guided the stage and screen for nearly six decades. In straightforward terms, it states simply that one should strive (consciously or super-consciously) to avoid the extra-instinctual mannerisms in the area of the lips and/or jaw by sublimating said mannerisms into a baseline psychological envelope.

“Don’t do that weird thing with your mouth.” You will find it on hand-written signs in dressing rooms and makeup trailers across the world. It has shepherded iconic performances that have gone on to win Oscars, Tonys, BAFTAs, People’s Choice Awards. I beg you heed its counsel.

Let us begin. Form a line at stage right. And… act!

Have you all begun acting? Excellent. Now, let me look at you.

You there, the blonde ingenue, you are doing a weird thing with your mouth. Stop doing that… Simply stop.

No, I’m sorry, I said you should stop doing a weird thing with your mouth. Instead, you seem to have intensified the weirdness. Now it has gotten even weirder still.

Everyone, come gather around this young woman and look at her mouth. See? See, right there. Do you notice the oddness, the uneasiness? Acting isn’t about attempting to not do something weird with your mouth; it’s about not attempting to not do something not weird with your mouth. Class, can you see how the manner in which she holds her mouth keeps getting weirder and weirder?

Try as she might, she simply cannot cease her mouth weirdness. Does that mean she can never be an actor? With gentle coaching…

Oh, my dear, are you crying? Don’t cry; we’re simply objectively criticizing your weird mouth as a group. There’s no reason to cry. Also, we don’t touch upon cry-acting until the third lesson.

Here, take a look at this young gentleman. Act for us, young man.

Do you see how his mouth remains decidedly un-weird? Not too much, not too little. It’s an everyday, unimpressive, Joe Schmoe, flyover-state mouth. That’s a mouth that draws box office receipts.

Now, looks at his eyes. Those are going crazy---twitching, squinting, over-the-top darting about.

That, my friends, is true acting.

Class dismissed!


My Regrets

Posted on May 12, 2011

A brief list of things I will regret having said for the rest of my life. (Provided without context.)

- Sure, this hide-a-bed will fit through the upstairs door.

- Right back at’cha.

- Well, if I have to choose a celebrity, I guess Kristen Bell.

- Sure, that can be my nickname.

- Cilantro.

- That’s okay, I’ll take the next train.

- Excuse me, I gotta make a tinkle.

- Double tequila.

- Whoa, who died and made you so frowny?

- Bye bye.

- Rental insurance? Maybe next time.

- Love you … Love ya ... buddy.

- I can hold it in.

- Let’s watch Cradle Will Rock.

- Learning German will probably be more useful.

- You’re Asian?

- Awww, she looks like a baby Buddy Hackett.

- Yupperdoodles!


Raised By Wolves

Posted on May 11, 2011


Okay, so I haven’t mentioned this on the blog before, but I was raised by wolves. And, I don’t normally talk about it, because people are always like, “Wow! Really? So, do you like have fleas and stuff?” Which is so offensive.

I mean, yes, my wolf mother happened to have fleas, and therefore I had fleas. Had in the past tense. That was a normal part of growing up in the woods. Would you ask somebody raised by bears if they have fleas?

Also, people assume I have bad manners. I have very good manners, thank you. They’re just different manners than you’re used to. For instance, I might not know which fork to use for stabbing leaf meals, but I do know when I should roll over exposing my belly versus when I should submissively urinate. It’s called etiquette.

So, right now I’m going to address a few of the most common questions I get, and then hopefully we can move on and not dwell on the wolf thing.

Yes, I do enjoy running and pouncing. Yes, my favorite meal is baby caribou. No, I’m not only attracted to wolves. Yes, I do howl in my sleep. No, I cannot sense when a wolf in my pack is in trouble. Honestly, most of my pack were jerks, and I only see them at wolf holidays or when I graduated from Wisconsin.

There. Can we drop it?

Listen, it’s not some big deal. I was raised by wolves. Big whoop. A lot of really great people were raised by wolves---Romuls and Remus, Mogli, Howie Mandel. Do you guys constantly ask them what it’s like to chase down and devour a musk ox? (It’s awesome, by the way. Are you happy, now? It’s super awesome.)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go scent mark my cubicle.

You heard me.



Posted on May 10, 2011

There are certain times when it’s appropriate to yell. Other times, not so much. Here’s a list of occasions to help you gauge when yelling might or might not be appropriate.

Time when yelling is appropriate:

- On a roller coaster

- At a sporting event

- During a car accident

- Engaging in non-violent protests

- Celebrating New Years

- While being murdered

- While battening down the hatches

- At the edge of the Grand Canyon

- Just as your dog tries to pee on the couch

- While operating a textile mill

- On a water slide

- During a stampede

- On a customer service call with Time Warner

- When tossing the hero his dropped sword

- Falling off a ladder

- Professing your love from a rooftop

- On a jetway

- Thanksgiving with Republicans

- While receiving electroshock therapy

- Riding Falkor

- Trapped at the bottom of a well


Times when yelling is not appropriate:

- At a funeral

- In a neonatal intensive care ward

- At a nice restaurant where I was trying to have a pleasant dinner with my wife and our good friend Jesse. I’m looking at you, large peroxided lady wearing leopard print at Vinegar Hill House in Brooklyn last night between the hours of 7:30 and 9:30pm. You know, you were with a group of similar-looking ladies having a good time, which is great. But, holy shit, you’ve got the loudest voice I’ve ever heard ever, and your anecdotes weren’t really charming enough to share with the entire restaurant. That’s why your friends kept talking over you, making you feel the need to raise your voice even more. For reals, though, shut the fuck up.


Tiffany’s Birthday

Posted on May 9, 2011

I was lucky enough to see my old friend, Steve Delahoyde, this weekend. And, it made me realize I never posted this video we had done together. Steve directed and I wrote, and Paul Thomas stole the show with his pitch-perfect reaction shots.

So, yeah, I hope you enjoy it.


Q-tips Fine Print

Posted on May 6, 2011

Cotton Swabs

I recently discovered the fine print on the back of a package of Q-tips Cotton Swabs.

I don't know if you've ever looked closely at the packaging for Q-tips. Probably not. That’s fine. But, it very clearly states that you should never use Q-tips inside your ear canal. Even though it seems like that’s exactly what they were originally designed for. Because, it turns out misuse of Q-tips poses a danger of rupturing your eardrum.

Fortunately, there are helpful, illustrated suggestions for other possible uses. For instance, you can use Q-tips to apply make-up... Or you can use them to swab a baby's nostrils... Or you can clean your computer keyboard...

And then, in very tiny (5-point type) pale blue letters, it reads:

Or you can go ahead and use them in your ears. Nobody's looking. It’s fine. I mean, who are we kidding, right? Let's not play these games.

Wait, are you seriously considering not use Q-tips in your ear canals? Have you ever used a Q-tip? It's like... I don't know how to say this. It's like… y'know when you've been wearing condoms for a couple of years, and then things start to get serious with someone, and you both decide to go on the pill and stop using a condom? It's fucking amazing! Oh my god, it just feels right. Like this is what we’re put on this Earth to do. It’s the same with Q-tips.

Not that we here at Q-tips’ parent corporation Unilever want you to stop using condoms. Keep using condoms, you guys. Especially any of you teenagers out there. Because that shit can ruin your life. No glove no love, kids.

But, you know, once you’ve been in a committed relationship for a while, and you’ve both gotten tested, and you both agree to what you’ll do if somebody gets pregnant…

Anyway, Q-tips---that's a low risk game for such a high level reward. Seriously, try this: Go a week without using a Q-tip, and then when you finally use one, try not to moan with pleasure. You can’t. You cannot not moan with pleasure. These for sure go in your ears.

We’re just saying that you shouldn’t be a doof about it. Don’t use Q-tips inside a commuter train bathroom. Or, don’t use them while walking through a revolving door. Or on a trampoline. But, you know, other than that, you should be fine.

So, yeah, go ahead. Ear city. Just don’t tell them FDA we told you to, because they’re about two complaints away from crawling up our asses on this one. It almost makes you want to vote Libertarian, if only those guys weren’t such weird gun freaks.

Q-tips: Like sex without a condom.

And, that’s exactly what it says in the fine print on the back Q-tips brand cotton swabs. You can go to the drugstore and see for yourself. Crazy right?

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