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.
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.”
“You know, living in D.C. is like being in a never-ending game of political chess, where every move is a debate and ‘compromise’ is that one piece you lost under the sofa. That’s why we’ve brought in comedy tonight – it’s like finding that lost chess piece, but instead of putting it back on the board, we throw it out the window and laugh about it!”
The audience chuckled, and Wayne continued, “And don’t worry, the only thing we’ll be staining at the Marriott tonight is your memory with good jokes. We’re keeping it clean – so clean, you could serve dinner on our punchlines and still pass a health inspection.”
“I kicked off the Comedy Writers Group in 2011, because let’s face it, a joke unshared is like a politician who doesn’t tweet – it just doesn’t make an impact. Comedy’s a team sport; without someone to laugh, a joke’s just a sentence with too much attitude.”
“The Fabulous Fat Doctor Blagmon held his comedy classes with us at Judy’s Bar & Restaurant. Fat Doctor Blagmon always said, ‘Write in your journal every day. Even if all you’ve got is ‘I’ve got nothing,’ scribble that down. It’s like a placeholder for your future genius – or your future grocery list. Either way, you’re winning.'”
“My idol, Richard Pryor, was a master at mixing comedy with tragedy. Kind of like a chef who mixes sweet and sour, except instead of a dish, you get a life story. And in my case, let’s just say my life’s recipe is one part comedy, two parts ‘Oops!’, and a sprinkle of ‘Did that really happen?’.”
“Back in the day, I was the go-to IT wizard at the SEC. You know, Securities and Exchange Commission, where the only securities I was exchanging were sleep for stress. My life was a series of night calls, like a superhero, except my superpower was rebooting routers at 3 AM. I got so good at navigating the dark, I thought about moonlighting as a burglar.
But, like any sensible person who finds themselves whispering sweet nothings to a modem at 2 in the morning, I had an epiphany. So, I quit, embracing freedom… a little too enthusiastically, it seems. Before I knew it, my new office had four wheels, and my home address was ‘various locations in Northern Virginia’.
Living out of my car, I became a nomad with a library card. Reston, Rockville, Falls Church – I was the only guy doing a library tour without a book signing. And let me tell you, nothing says ‘I’ve made it’ like waking up to a view of the Reston Public Library.
Visiting friends in D.C. became a special operation. My car tags expired, making my vehicle as welcome in the city as a skateboard in Congress. So, I’d park in another state and take the Metro in, like an international commuter.
And here’s a pro tip for you: the key to seamless urban camping is to never look like you’ve just rolled out of a tent. I mastered the art of looking casually homeless – it’s all about the ‘business casual’ homeless chic.
Falling down became my weekly exercise. It’s amazing how a public stumble turns you into a stand-up comedian. You learn to laugh it off, mostly to assure bystanders you haven’t broken anything expensive, like your pride.
Through it all, I found the secret to a stress-free life: inner peace, zen, and the unshakable belief that if I can handle a conference call while parked outside a Starbucks for free Wi-Fi, I can handle anything.
So, here’s to the journey from IT help desk to helping myself. Turns out, the biggest reboot I needed was for my own life. And maybe, just maybe, the real securities were the friends we made along the way. No? Just me? Alright then.”
“In my latest adventure, I’ve taken on the role of Comedy Entrepreneur, which is like being a regular entrepreneur but with better jokes and slightly worse financial planning. My mission? To turn D.C. into the comedy capital of the world. Move over, politics; it’s time for punchlines.
Our approach is simple but revolutionary. We target bars on their quietest nights, you know, when they’re just one sad song away from becoming a country music cliché. We walk in and say, ‘Hey, how would you like us to pack this place with laughter and customers? No, this isn’t a joke, but we do have plenty of those.’
We kicked things off at Recessions Bar, because what better place to start a comedy revolution than a spot named after economic downturns? Our concept is ‘Comedy x 10’ – featuring ten different comedians each week. By the end of the month, that’s 40 comedians, each with their unique brand of humor. That’s not just a comedy show; it’s a comedy marathon with a sprinter’s pace.
Think about it: where else can you hear 40 different takes on life, politics, and why pizza is the perfect breakfast food? Our shows offer a smorgasbord of perspectives, ensuring that if one joke doesn’t land for you, the next one might just be your new favorite.
This model doesn’t just breathe life into slow nights; it creates a vibrant, dynamic community hub. We’re not just filling seats; we’re creating an ecosystem where comedians thrive, bars flourish, and audiences get their weekly dose of serotonin. It’s a win-win-win, the trifecta of entrepreneurial success.
Our vision is to make D.C. not just the capital of the country, but the comedy capital as well. A place where laughter drowns out the noise of politics, if only for a night. So, if you’re looking for a revolution, join us. After all, in D.C., we’re used to uprisings – but this time, we’re rising up in laughter.”
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 also spoken to the Comedy Writers Group at Judy’s 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, MD. 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!”
“My culinary education took place behind bars, in the unforgiving confines of a vegan prison. Ever been trapped in a relationship with a vegan? That’s freedom compared to vegan jail.”
“You don’t truly earn the title of ‘Bottom Chef’ until you’ve experienced the culinary depths of ‘Rock Bottom.’ My mentor? Chef Boy-R-Dee. His philosophy? A man, a plan, a can.”
“The city of Buffalo sued me for defamation of their wings.”
“In the heated world of culinary arts, Chef Gordon Ramsay isn’t the pioneer of kitchen meltdowns. I’ve been perfecting the art of the scream long before it was televised. ‘Threaten me with prison again, and it’s not the food that’ll get chopped.'”
“I once ascended to dubious fame as the face of Spam. Remember, Spam isn’t just for dinner; it’s a last resort. If the dog turns its nose up, you know it’s yours.”
“As ‘Bottom Chef,’ I’ve innovated the cooking process by pre-ruining your meal. Why wait? I’ll splatter the food directly into your toilet.”
“These days, my signature dishes are anything that can be drowned in hot sauce and red wine. It’s a delicate culinary balance—some for the pan, more for the chef.”
Amidst the trials of trying every new restaurant in town, I’ve realized perhaps my most needed culinary tool isn’t a spatula—it’s a personal trainer. As Orlando Darden playfully noted, “It might be time to cut back on the beer.” His comment, met with roaring laughter, reminded us all that the essence of good comedy, like good cooking, lies in its relatability and the joy it brings to those who partake in it.
The room was filled with laughter, and Nicole couldn’t help but enjoy the comic relief that Wayne was providing. She leaned back in her chair, more relaxed than before. Next was Leon Scott, a Comedian, Writer and Journalist for WUSA-9 CBS.
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.
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?
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.
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..?”
“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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
“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.”
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.
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.