Babies

Warming Up My Act

Lee Schneider (@docuguy) • Instagram photos and videos 2015-07-26 20-38-52

I have a big gig coming up this week. I am traveling back East to play six days in Rhode Island. It’s a pretty easy crowd, because they think I’m cute, but that doesn’t stop me from working hard on the routine. I like to play small rooms to warm up the set. I will try out jokes at school and on the playground. I’ll test some set ups on the cafe cashier selling me a gelato. If there’s a babysitter around or a friend of my parents visiting, I will run through a few lines. Of course, I work it pretty heavy on the plane out. It’s nearly five hours on the flight, so I can run through the set over and over. By the time the other passengers leave the plane they are crying from laughing so hard at my material, or at least they are crying from the experience of riding on a plane with me.

Here’s some of my best stuff. If you wouldn’t mind memorizing a few of these straight lines and set ups and feeding them to me when you see me, it would be a great help. For those of you keeping track, I go with a non-associative structure to the set. I don’t like to build stand-up set theorems like Jerry Seinfeld. This isn’t math. It’s comedy. It’s more a Henny Youngman or Jackie Mason kind of thing, spritzing as it used to be known in the trade.

What did the train say when it sneezed?

Chugga chugga ach-oo!

What did the cat say when it wanted to leave the room?

Get me meow-outta here.  

What did the dog say about the convertible?

There’s no WOOF! 

What did the mommy cow say to the dawdling baby cow?

Let’s get a mooove on.

What did the polite baby cow say to his mommy cow?

Excuse me, moo.

Knock knock.

Who’s there?

Boo.

Boo who?

Don’t cry, it’s only a knock knock joke.

What did the duck say after it heard all these jokes?

You really quack me up!

Thank you. You’ve been a great audience.

Babies

I didn’t run the marathon this year

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The main reason I didn’t run the LA marathon this year is that I didn’t train. I trained for other things instead. I trained for the stamina to wear out my parents so they required naps more than I did. I trained for chasing the cat, and then trained for complaining that he swatted at me. I trained for building enormously tall towers of blocks that fell with a crash at eight in the morning. I trained for eating the crust of pizza only, only a half cup freshly-squeezed orange juice that cost $5, and I have trained hard to ask for vanilla yogurt in a bowl, wait for the parent serving me to sit down and begin reading the paper, and then ask for some strawberries to go in the yogurt, wait once again for my parent to sit down and read another paragraph about Hillary Clinton’s emails, and then ask for some almond butter to go with the yogurt and strawberries in the bowl, wait another moment, until my parent sits down again, and ask for some water. All reasonable requests! And sequenced perfectly, don’t you think?

I have trained to count to ten by myself. I have trained on the ABC song and know all of it.

I trained for lounging in the bathtub. I have trained for crashing into the bed and cutting my temple. (I am okay now.)

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During the marathon I applauded the runners, and then, just to see what would happen, I threw a large pine cone into their path, to see if any of them would trip. This got me a stern lecture from my mama about the irresponsibility of tripping people who have trained hard to run for hours, but I don’t see the sense of running for hours anyway, and I am deeply involved now in testing boundaries. I have become a scientist of boundaries, constantly experimenting to see how late I can stay up, how long I can remain in the bathtub (a long, long time!), what happens if I throw something at my father’s face (result: not good!), and if I butt my hard head up against my mother’s jaw. (Also a bad experiment; will not be repeated.)  I have experimented with singing the Bingo song, and Old MacDonald, to help myself fall asleep.

Despite these experiments, or because of them, my mama says she wants to run a marathon with me, when I am old enough, she says. I don’t know what she is waiting for. I am ready now to run at least two or three minutes at a time. (Will somebody write in and tell me how long a marathon is?)

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Babies

I Work Hard to Stay Relevant

I work hard to stay relevant. When I go to a park, I seize the moment by creating sculpture using a traffic cone, eucalyptus leaves, branches and bark. Look out Louise Nevelson, because I might be more relevant than you already, and I am just two and a half. I am a seizer of moments.

At mealtimes with my parents, I repeat mommy mommy mommy over and over to break up the conversation when I can’t think of anything to say. I believe in staying on top of the conversation at mealtimes and this means talking a lot. My father refers to this as ‘sucking the oxygen out of the room,’ but I don’t know what he means. He talks about me being a blustery lobbyist or commentator on Fox, but I don’t think these would be good career choices for me.

Staying relevant means that everyone is looking at you. The best way to do this is to shout, ‘Mama, play with me’ when you want your mama to stop reading The New York Times Week in Review and come over and build a block tower right away. I have seen the Week in Review, and it is filled with fluff. Maureen Dowd is off for the holiday, so there is nothing to read there. Nick Kristof is okay, but David Brooks is a one-percenter apologist blowhard. Joe Nocera is a sophisticated complainer, nothing more. My mama will get a lot more out of making a block tower with me, trust me.

Sometimes staying relevant is challenging. There are moments, as impossible as it is to believe, during which I have nothing to say. At those times, I make buzzing noises to simulate words. There are times when I disagree with my parents’ choices for me but don’t want to hurt their feelings by saying their logic is outmoded, their morality bankrupt, and their creative impulses derivative. So in those instances I just say ‘woof.’ I mean, literally, ‘woof.’ It is easier to become a puppy in the moments when somebody in authority is mouthing an inanity like: ‘Two more minutes of playtime, and then we will be putting away the blocks!’ The only response to a statement like that is ‘woof.’ I use this technique often.

Staying relevant means creating drawings with my parents, but I do it Huck Finn style, getting them to do most of the drawing, while I direct them, telling them what to draw, and in what color.

Staying relevant means listening carefully to when my parents get up at 6:30 AM to do yoga and meditation, and then calling out ‘Mama come in here now’ to stay top of mind during their sessions.

Staying relevant means skipping or shortening my naps so that I can continue to build block towers and seize moments.

Adopt some of these techniques, and you too will stay relevant.

Babies

Nudity is OK, as Long as it’s Tasteful

I was reading an article in the New York Times the other day about nudist colonies in Croatia, and it struck me. I am getting more comfortable being naked. I decided to test this out the other day. When my parents came in my room to get me at 6:30 in the morning, I had taken off my shirt and was leering proudly at them from my crib half naked. It was liberating. I saw something of the future in it.

When I was very small I didn’t know what the heck was going on, so being naked was the same as wearing clothes. But as I matured, even a few months in, I started not liking the idea of getting my diaper changed in public. It’s so exposed with everything flapping around as your parent works quickly to strap you up again. Also, it’s drafty. I can think of lots of better things to do than having your diaper changed when you are crammed in an airplane lavatory, or as you dangle off a car tailgate, or as you roll around in the grass in the shady part of a sun-drenched public park.

The nudist colony piece in the Times got me thinking, however, that what I didn’t like about nudity had nothing to do with nakedness. It had everything to do with nakedness as a necessary condition of having a wet diaper changed. It was nakedness endured, not chosen. That morning in my crib, I chose my own nakedness, and it rocked.

What good are clothes anyway? You can go swimming without clothes and I have a lot of fun while swimming. You take a bath without clothes and I look forward to that. You can take a shower, which is slightly scary, but it’s good to get out of your comfort zone sometimes, especially in water. My cat doesn’t wear clothes, and most dogs I see don’t wear them either, and they seem happy.

There is only one reason to have clothes on your body that I can see. They are to catch food when you miss your mouth. Therefore the only necessary article of clothing for anyone is a bib. Bibs come in many stylish colors and shapes to satisfy the most discerning fashionista/o. I have a truck bib, an owl bib, and a blue one with concentric circles on it that reminds me of Wassily Kandinsky’s work from 1922-1932. I am going to start recommending adult bibs as a fashion statement on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and maybe somebody will pick up on it for a crowdfunding campaign.

The new thing I am doing with my mommy lately is a daily Sarasvati puja in the mornings. It goes quite smoothly with my cooperation, and only one time have we nearly burned a hole in the floor with our ceremonial candle.

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Babies

The Satisfaction of No

There is something really satisfying about flushing a toilet over and over, especially when there is somebody in authority standing close by, telling you not to do it.

There is something great about running around the apartment, turning on all the lights, closing all the doors, closing all the windows I can reach, and watching the temperature climb until my dad’s head turns red and explodes. That’s nice.

There’s something gratifying about asking for bananas over and over again in a commanding voice, and then, when they arrive, not eating a single one of them. It works even better if you say ‘all done’ and toss the plate.

There is personal enrichment in saying no to everything, even things I really want. I can always say I want them later, because if you use a loud voice, your parents will give you anything, I’ve learned.

It’s great to be two and two months. I can taste the power.

Oh, I have to go now. Some men have arrived with a straitjacket they want my father to try on. I think I might have to stop this, before they cart him away.  All I have to do is say NO NO NO in a loud voice.  I have a lot of practice, so I know this plan will work.

Editor’s note: Child development experts write ‘The better the parent, the more the child dares to disagree.’ This sounds good, but it makes you wonder if these child development experts have a quart-sized jar of serotonin reuptake inhibitors always close at hand, or are faithful consumers of bulk, box wine in the evenings when trying to unwind. 

Babies

It’s a Jungle Out There: Letting Duckie Down Easy

There was a great ‘Sex and the City’ episode in which Berger dumped Carrie by writing her a break up note on a post-it. I would never be so cruel as to break up with anybody on a post-it. I am going to break up with my duckie in a blog, in public, for a thousand people to read.

Hey there, my good friend Duckie, take this box of tissues. And here’s a stiff drink. If this were a ‘Sex and the City’ episode it would be a pink Cosmo filled to the brim. But knowing you, it will be a 12-year-old Macallan, neat. You’re more of a Samantha, anyway.

Listen, Duckie. Augie Doggie is my new best stuffed friend now. That’s just the way it goes. You smelled good. You were soft. You were a good friend. You never argued. You never complained when I threw you in the toilet. You took it like a duck. But now, it’s over.

You must have seen this coming. I don’t try to sneak you in my mama’s handbag any more for field trips. I don’t put my mouth on your head and try to suck your eyes out. I don’t clutch you close to my heaving body in the night. I have, I admit, completely ignored you these past few months. The only trip you’re going to make is to the floor when I throw you out of the crib in the morning.

Hey, don’t cry. You know who suffers the same fate? Blue puppy, Little Kitty and elephant. I throw them out of the crib every morning, too. They are the Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop of my stuffed animal Rat Pack. Sure, they were vitally important in their time. But now all anybody remembers is Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. Nobody remembers that Humphrey Bogart was the original leader, and that Lauren Bacall coined the name Rat Pack. Duckie, you’re Joey Bishop now. So sorry.

I know it’s a tough gig being a transitional object. But you should have seen this coming when you were never given a proper name. Augie Doggie started out ahead. Stuffed friends with names like Duckie and Little Kitty, well, you don’t have much personal branding there, do you? You’re going to get mowed down in the relentless drive of a toddler’s love. As toddlers we are incredibly busy people. Have you noticed that as soon as I get up in the morning I am building towers, crashing them over, stomping on cereal, chasing the cat and screaming? My plate is full, my to-do list is, like, crazy, and I felt you weren’t keeping up. Also, Augie Doggie has a collar that I can wrap around my finger so he can come with me. You have no such handhold. Sorry, your anatomy was your downfall and you were often left behind.

Can we be friends always? I know I’ll think of you at holidays, and in quiet moments as I walk on the beach with Augie Doggie. Just don’t drunk-text me, okay? Send a card or something. And don’t use a post-it.

Me and my buddy Augie, on the run.
Me and my buddy Augie, on the run.