Who The Hell Is Joe Wong?

Yet as soon as he began to speak the audience roared–and this is a very tough crowd!

My buddy Farrell shot me an email Thursday. Here’s the gist:

I attended the Radio & Television Correspondents Dinner last night at the DC Convention Center. Joe Biden was the main speaker. A couple of funny lines in the beginning of his speech. Also, look for Joe Wong, a comedian, who wrapped up the evening. He has a final line about global warming. I thought of you.

First, I’m impressed Farrell was at the dinner. He is the International Man of Mystery&#153, but he’s never been a correspondent. At least he hasn’t been in the nearly thirty years I know him¹!

Second, who the hell is Joe Wong? Am I that far behind on comedians? I went to the C-SPAN site to look at the video. That’s when I found out this broadcast wasn’t even on ‘real’ C-SPAN, but C-SPAN 2–The Deuce.

Joe was introduced as having been on Letterman and Ellen Degeneres. That’s OK on a resume, but not great. He walked to the podium. If you were looking for a comedian he is not what you would have been looking for! Yet as soon as he began to speak the audience roared–and this is a very tough crowd!

Joe Wong is Chinese born, Rice educated. His accent is strong. His observations of our, now his, culture are dead on.

This was a great surprise–a wonderful surprise. I am now a Joe Wong fan.

Here’s the video from C-SPAN 2.

¹ – I met Farrell on the phone about 15 minutes before I knocked over and then met Helaine. That was a VERY good day!

How Comedians Were Made

I’ve been watching YouTube tonight. That’s probably a bad thing to say, since watching YouTube means I’m not watching television.

It’s interesting how, in many ways, YouTube (or one of its wannabe sister sites) has become the conduit for many of our shared mutual experiences. That used to be the province of TV. Now, if you missed it when it happened, you can catch up online.

Tonight on YouTube I was watching airchecks of a few comedians first appearances with Johnny Carson. I remembered seeing Rosanne Barr’s first set as it aired on The Tonight Show. Others I may have seen, but they didn’t leave an impression at the time.

When I was going to college and long into my working life, Johnny Carson and the Tonight Show was the only thing on nationally after the late news. There was no Letterman or Leno or Conan or Jon Stewart. Yeah – there was cable, but cable had few additional channels and fewer original productions.

A comedian making his/her debut appearance on the Tonight Show could expect their life to change forever instantly. I’ve heard more than one comic say that.

There were three responses you could get from Johnny. He could politely applaud. That was bad news. He could give you the ‘hi’ sign. That was approval.

If you were really good, Johnny would call you over to the couch for a minute or two. Ellen DeGeneres was called over on her first night. You could see in her eyes she totally understood what was happening.

That era, where one program could have such an impact, is gone. It will never come back. In a multichannel universe, no one show can dominate.

As much as the rights holders are probably upset, having these moments of television history available is yet another luxury of the Internet.

California Here We Come

With snow on the way for tomorrow and chilly temperatures still in the forecast, we are excited about our upcoming vacation to California. We’ll be spending time in Los Angeles and then Palm Springs (someplace we’ve never been).

Many times, I have heard people talk about going on vacation and not wanting to do touristy things. Not us – the tackier and more touristy, the better!

We’ll be going to Universal and walking the beach behind the beautiful homes in Malibu. I’ll take my camera and shoot thousands of shots. We had hoped to see three TV shows but it looks like we’ll be 0 for 3 in that regard.

The OC, which is a show that doesn’t have a studio audience is shooting in Miami. So, no matter how much help I had from highly placed friends, that isn’t happening. Same thing with Jay Leno. Here’s a guy who’s a workaholic… probably does the show 50 weeks a year. Gone. The show will be dark. Bad timing on our part.

We had also hoped for Ellen Degeneres, but again, circumstances got in the way. Actually, Helaine tried months ago, hoping that our out-of-town address would get us in. We never heard from them. Today a well placed friend tried on our behalf, only to be told there were no VIP seats (he requested VIP treatment – not me). Oh well.

We do have reservations for dinner at some ‘happening’ restaurants, and I’ll write more about them while we’re there.

One of the fun things about a California vacation is the chance to see friends who live there and aren’t at close range too often. One of the friends I’ll be seeing is someone I’ve known for nearly 50 years (that was sobering just to write). We’re having lunch our first full day in. The other two have been friends with each other, and me, for nearly 40 years.

My Cousin Michael lives in Southern California with his family and we’re looking forward to spending time with them in Orange County. Stef wants to go to Laguna and other beach communities. Me too. Helaine three.

I would like to live in Los Angeles. I’ve felt that way for a long time. In my business, I’m probably too old… too ‘not hunky.’ I know a lot of people say LA’s phony… and that’s probably true. It also represents the pinnacle in the entertainment industry. For TV, Sinatra would have sung “LA, LA.”

For us, the California lifestyle is very foreign… which makes it fun to play in it for a while. Whether it would lose its luster if I had to deal with it every day is another story.

The trick to California living is realizing it’s not a place to be unless you’re well to do. Southern California is not a good place to be in the middle class – even the upper middle class. Los Angeles is meant to be lived properly with a lot of money. It is definitely a classist society.

For ten days we’ll make believe we belong and hope no one catches on.