President’s Bar Comics

Nicole Foster was the wet behind the ears Marketing Manager trying to drum up new clientele for the President’s Sports Bar at the Renaissance Hotel in the Penn Quarter.

So when I got a call from the Marriott, requesting our services, I wasn’t about to turn it down.

As I walked around the expansive lobby, I noticed how drab, gray, and uninviting it was.  The only customers I saw in the President’s Sports Bar were mindless tourists in tees and lobbyists in suits sealing deals over after-work cocktails.  There were pictures of Kennedy swinging a golf club in Hyannis Port and Reagan in Camp David with Prime Minister Thatcher.  There were no pictures of Nixon, but there sure was plenty inside Room 214 at the Watergate building where G. Gordon Liddy directed the infamous break-in of the DNC headquarters, erupting into a major political scandal.


The President’s Sports Bar

At the mahogany wooden bar, a power broker ordered a Watergate: Maker’s Mark, Grand Marnier, Myer’s Dark rum, sugar, bitters, pineapple, and ginger.  He’s trying his best to avoid the pitfalls that ensnarled Casino Jack Abramoff, owner of the infamous Signatures Restaurant down the road.  The diplomatic presence was so strong that at any moment I could imagine Kevin Spacey playing Congressman Frank Underwood emerging from the VIP dining room uttering his most fallacious quote “The road to power is paved with hypocrisy and casualties.”

“So what did you have in mind Nicole?”

“Well, we’re an old bureaucratic town rooted deep in tradition, so maybe target Young Gov Leaders or D.C. Young Republicans.”

“You’re kidding me. The Renaissance already has its unwavering patronage.  Let’s shoot for something totally radical and out of the blue”

I called my friend, Wayne Manigo, to see if he could arrange a standup show with the area’s best comedians.

“Why comedy?” Nicole asked puzzled and perturbed.

“Cuz people here are so uptight, they need to take the edge off.  And comedy relating to the vibrant restaurant industry and addressing the political environment is the perfect panacea for healing.”


Wayne Manigo

“But we don’t want to hear anything X Rated that will tarnish the Marriott name.”

“No worries, my pal Wayne will promise to keep things clean.”

Wayne was the first one to set the tone. An NYC native, an Army veteran, and the co-founder of the Comedy Writers Group.

I started the Comedy Writers Group in 2011 because comedy requires group review. You just don’t know if your jokes are really funny until you can share them with other people.

My mentor, Fat Doctor Blagmon, teaches his students to write something in their journals every day. if you write ‘But I have nothing to say,’ write that down and move on. I’ve been writing in my journal ever since we created the Comedy Writers Group, and the benefits have changed my life forever.

Comedy requires group review.  You just don’t know if your jokes are really funny until you can share them with other people,” he said as he segued into why he started the writer’s group in 2011.

My favorite comedian is Richard Pryor. Despite his success, he lived a tragic personal life. Comedy plus tragedy — that’s what makes things funny. That’s really the story of my life.

Homeless:

I used to work at the SEC as a manager of the IT help desk.  But I was on call every day, waking up in the middle of the night to fix a kicked-over modem.  I was exhausted and unplugged so I quit. Eventually, I became homeless and lived in my car and traveled to shelters in Reston and Rockville.  When I visited friends in D.C., I couldn’t drive to the city cuz my tags had expired, so I had to park out of state and metro into town.  The key to being homeless is not to look disheveled and needing a bath.

When you fall down at least once a week, you learn to laugh it off. No matter how much it hurts, you laugh because you know it makes other people more comfortable with what’s going on. If they believe you’re all right, your story is a comedy rather than a tragedy.

And through it all, I’ve learned to live a stress-free life with inner peace and zen.

Comedy:

So my new role is a Comedy Entrepreneur trying to expand our reach and make D.C. a comedy mecca.  We would visit a bar on a slow night and say “Hey we can bring you X amount of customers. We started at the Recessions Bar where we have Comedy x 10 – we feature ten different comedians each week, so at the end of the month, folks get to hear 40 different comics – that’s a helluva lot of jokes. 

Chef:

So did you know that I’m a part-time chef?  Chefs Jared Thomas and his mentor Marianne from D.C. Central Kitchens trained me. They had a powerful way to inspire me and made me fall in love with cooking.  Chef Jared has spoken to the Comedy Writers Group at Judy’s Restaurant a few times, and he’s not only inspirational but funny.

In fact, he moved me to create a character called ‘Bottom Chef’ for a comedy contest at Hightopps Restaurant in Timonium. My outfit is a chef’s jacket with a logo similar to the ‘Top Chef’ design. Here are some of my jokes:

I start my food prep each day with a ritual — raise my shot glass and yell “Bottoms Up!”

You can’t be a ‘Bottom Chef’ until you hit ‘Rock Bottom’.

I learned to cook in prison. And the real punishment was that it was a vegan prison. If you ever dated a vegan, you know what it’s like to be a vegan prisoner.

My cooking style was based Chef Boy-R-Dee. A man, a plan, a can.

The city of Buffalo sued me for defamation of their wings.

This is a tough business. People steal all the time. Chef Ramsey wasn’t the first chef to yell. I’ve been yelling for years. “Don’t make me go back to prison for stabbing your ass.”

I rose to celebrity fame by becoming the national spokesperson for Spam. Spam…it’s what’s for dinner. Or Spam….If the dog won’t eat it, you still can.

Bottom Chef saves you time by splattering his food in your toilet for you.

I laughed so hard, I thought I might get a heart attack. “So what does the Bottom Chef cook these days?”

Anything with hot sauce and red wine. A little bit for the dish, a little bit for the chef. But seriously, all the restaurants you got me trying out lately Chito, I don’t need to cook. I need a personal trainer.

“That’s exactly why I’m here Wayne,” Orlando Darden blurted from the audience. “To whip your ass in shape. And you should probably start laying off the beer.”


Leon Scott

Next was Leon Scott, a Comedian, Writer, and Journalist for WUSA-9 CBS.

What’s going on? How’s everyone doing? Feel good, Well I feel great and lemme tell you why.  I got the best back-handed compliment I ever got in my life.  I was out and this tall woman walked up to me and said ‘You concentrated sexy.’ That’s like saying just add water and you become 6’5″. I’ve never felt that tall in my life.

My best friend Rome is 6’5″, and he always says things that takes being tall for granted. He would say ‘Man, being tall doesn’t help me meet women.’  And his voice is tall.

That’s a lie cuz I’ve never had a woman come up to me and say. ‘So I saw the top of your head from across the room.”

But being short hasn’t stopped me from going on TV. I just gotta sound tall. Speaking about news media, would like to introduce the next segment — Real Time with Bill Maher.

Dan Verkman

Hi, I’m Dan Verkman, but everyone tells me I look like Bill and they say it in a way like I’ve never heard it before.

“Do you know who you look like?” or “Anyone ever tell you who you look like?” Yeah only for the umpteenth time today. Now buzz off.

I do get a lot of people checking me out like I’m so kind of a weirdo. Unless they yell ‘Bill’, I’m never sure why they’re staring. Do I have a big booger in my nose, is my hair sticking up, is my fly down?

Doctor’s Office:

One time I was checking if for a doctor’s visit and I overheard an older married couple talking. “Hey, that guy looks like that comedian guy from TV,” the husband says. Then, a couple of minutes later you hear him say, “even acts like him too. A real jerk”

Then after filling out my paperwork and I sit down, he leans over to ask me. “Ever hear of a TV personality named Bill Maher?”

I looked at him like he was from outer space. “Who the hell is he?” Sometimes it’s smart to play dumb.

Supermarket:

Then there’s the moment I was going through the checkout counter at the supermarket, and the cashier says, “You know who you look like..?”

“Yes!” I responded hoping she won’t press me further.

“I’ve seen you in line before, you have a home in the DMV, don’t you..?”

“Ah, yeah.”

“Well, who’s doing the cooking?”

“The writers,” I responded hoping she would realize that I was just pulling her leg.

“You’re gonna mention me on your show aren’t you?

“Only if you don’t charge me the county bag fee.”

“You kidding with the millions you have, you could buy the entire store.”

I can’t even walk down main street any city, without someone yelling from their car.

“Hey Bill, saw you on TV last night. Love your show.”

Speed Dating:

But I’m not complaining. Looking like Bill has gotten me a lot of perks. Went on a speed dating event the other night where I was told by 10 different girls “Did anyone ever tell you who you look like?”

One girl asked, “What do you do?”

“I make people laugh.”

“Are you a comedian?”

“No, I write code.”

Tattoo Bar:

Afterward, I went to the Tattoo Bar up the street and was approached by 3 hot chics who asked for a pic. The bar manager then said, “Name it, you got it.” Then a tough-looking dude approached and said “You really him? You look different on TV.”

Metro:

On the metro ride to a show one night, two Black guys approached and said “Anyone ever tell you, you look like Freddy Krueger?” I know Bill can be evil, but that’s pretty extreme.

After the show, two Black girls called out from an Audi.

“Bill Maher!”

“Yes, better than Freddy.”

“You wanna smoke a bowl with us?”

The audience clapped hands. Someone yelled “Bill has jungle fever you know. Play the role.”

Karaoke:

I sing karaoke, and sometimes I put my name in as Bill M. One girl thought I was Bill Murray and had me autograph her forearm.

One hot blonde came over and nearly sat on my lap and whispered “I know who you are.”

“How was she in bed?” someone chuckled.

Let’s just say, I played the role that night.

Art Show:

One time I was at an art show in Bethesda when I met Anne Currie from the Today show. And she asked what I was doing here.

In a somewhat inebriated state from all the free wine they were serving, I told her I was in town for the White House Correspondents Dinner. — I had just overheard it was the next day just a few minutes earlier.

I think she actually believed me cuz I can play the role of a journalist pretty convincingly.

House of Cards:

Did you know I auditioned for the journalist role on House of Cards? They had me read three roles, all political pundits. The first role was as a Glen Beck guy. Everybody auditioning was a real reporter. The guy who auditioned before me was Jamie McIntyre from CNN. He said to me while we were in the waiting room “You know, you look quite familiar.”

So now you can add a new title to my resume — Bill M. the actor.

The audience gave Dan a standing ovation. “You should write a book about this!” Wayne suggested. “It’ll be an N.Y. Times Bestseller”

At the end of the night, Nicole came over and gave me a pat on the shoulder. 

I turned around and said, “So comedy night was a smashing success. We were able to reach out to the young millennials who love to meet, laugh and drink. We should do a sequel.”

“Are you kidding me, some of these jokes were downright raunchy. Wayne was inspiring, but some of the standups really bombed it. And Dan may be Bill’s doppelganger, but I’m not interested in hearing about his sexcapades. Tonight, you’ve embarrassed the Marriott name. JW himself would turn over in his grave.”

Wayne shook his head and grimaced. “So I guess there won’t be a part deux.”

“Yup back to the ole drawing board,” I lamented.


9 Comics & a Monkey at the Renaissance Hotel Standup

X