dad from day one: The Role of Control in Life (and What That Has to Do with “Guest Towels”)

Week 11.

You are looking at a picture of our “guest towels”.  If you are one of the 7 (maybe less?) males to actually be reading this, you will be just as confused as I once was to learn that despite their name, guest towels, these are not actually towels intended for guests to use.  Granted, we do have extra towels for when guests do actually stay at our home- but those are in our “guest bathroom” on the other end of the house.  As a guy, who is unable to see any logic in having guest towels in the bathroom attached to our bedroom that are actually only there to look nice and for decoration, not actually for guests to use,  I found comfort in watching many male stand up comics who made a routine out of the same topic.

I am becoming more and more aware of how little control I actually have over my own life; much less my own house.  Because another common topic that married male stand up comics talk about is the fact that they don’t know where anything in their own house belongs: like the mixing bowl, the stapler, and of course, the real guest towels that are actually intended for guests for use.  And now it makes so much more sense why it is so common for the man of the house to spend time in his “man cave”, whether it is his garage, his shop, or even the yard.  Why? Because while in his solitude, he has a sense of control over something on the land he owns or rents.

Jack's first taste of a pineapple.

I’m at a point in my life where I am constantly reminded of what little I actually do control right now.  With tomorrow reaching the 2 month mark of unemployment, the dignity of providing for my family has been surrendered. And without that, I also feel like I can’t control my time (because I feel guilty if I’m not constantly doing something constructive to find a job).  Starting on Christmas Day and ending yesterday (Groundhog Day), after my wife and son went to sleep each night, I would spend an hour or so revisiting my video game past.  I took take the time to go through all 3 Super Mario Bros. games on regular Nintendo, Super Mario World for Super NES, and New Super Mario Bros. for WII,  and beat them without using any Game Genies or Warp Zones (which again may only interest the 7 or less men reading this).  And while there is something seemingly pathetic about a jobless, 29 year-old guy cheering out loud because he beat Super Mario Bros. 3 for the first time in his life; for me, it was a major sense of accomplishment.

I controled those old-school, 8-bit Nintendo games.  And in some slightly true sense, I had control over my time as well.

I think it’s easy to overlook the importance of control in life.  Why is it that if you drive into certain “bad neighborhoods” that the residents stand in the road or take their sweet time crossing the street, knowing that you need to get by?  It’s gives them a sense of control.  Why are there rapists in the world?  Well, the easy answer is “the depravity of man” or “lust” or “an unfulfilled sex drive”.  But to me it’s pretty obvious that their hideous crime is also largely fueled by a lack of control in their own lives.  For more times than I can remember, it seems any time I watch a story on NBC Dateline about a rapist, he was emotionally, physically, or sexually abused growing up.  Some people will do anything for the sense of control in their own life.

So what can I do right now?  What can I actually control in my life at this moment? I can help with the basic needs of my son.  I can control whether or not he gets fed, held, played with, and nurtured.  And perhaps the best part, I can make him do funny, weird stunts to be featured on YouTube.  Because hey, what else am I going to do until I get a real job?

Humor with Laugh Tracks Vs. Subtle Comedy: Why Jokes Don’t Make Me Laugh

What makes a person funny?

Recently at the place I used to work, they hired a motivational speaker.  His whole two hour bit was infused with “jokes”.  I guess a few people noticed that I wasn’t laughing at every joke along with them, for the most part.  It’s because very seldom does a joke make me laugh.  The way I process jokes, they are either for kids (“Why was six afraid of seven?”), for people without a good sense of humor (fans of Larry the Cable Guy and Dane Cook), and/or for the dirty-minded (more extreme than “that’s what she said…).  I think “jokes” are cheesy.  When a person tells me, “Oh, I got a joke for you,” I just wait for my cue and give them a courtesy laugh.

So what is funny?  For the most part, when something is subtle and isn’t necessarily supposed to be funny is often when it’s the funniest to me. I used to work in an office 9 hours every weekday and in the midst of the afternoon lulls, I found little things to amuse me. I would start laughing out loud and no one would know why I was laughing. And the truth is, these things probably weren’t funny to anyone else.

Here’s one example: A cliché phrase I had to hear a lot around the office was “crunch numbers”. So I thought to myself, “What if they made a cereal for adults called ‘Number Crunch'”? It will be made with whole-grain and would be in the shapes of the numbers 1 through 9. That way, accountants and other professionals who work with numbers all day would have the appropriate cereal to eat in the morning.

Here’s another: One day one of my co-workers came back from lunch with a jar of candy from Cracker Barrel. They were Atomic Fireballs- the kind we had when we were kids. She offered me one. I explained to her that I only like candy that has protein in it. (Example: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Snickers, etc., but not Skittles, Starburst, etc.)

Then she said, “I wonder what Fireballs are made out of…probably just sugar and water.” I immediately started laughing when she said that because I got this image in my head of someone biting down on a fireball and all this water gushing out of their mouth.  That, to me, is hilarious.  Maybe because it’s absurd.

My theory that “jokes aren’t funny” can be tested by the fact that funny stand-up comedians don’t tell really tell jokes anymore. Mainly they talk about awkward and annoying social situations.  Though some comics, like the late Rodney Dangerfield, can be funny mainly because of all of just one-liners. So I guess one-liners are funny. Like Chris Tucker having a career simply based on one line: “Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?!” But delivery and composure ultimately land or crash the comedic aspect.

And I guess another thing that is funny is when people do stupid things and get hurt. People falling down is always funny. It works for Johnny Knoxville. Okay, so here’s what is funny to me: random observations, awkward social situations, one-liners, and people hurting themselves. That, my friends, is comedy.  Not some lame fake-story that ends with a pun or a curse word, prompting me to laugh: If I have to be reminded it’s funny, then… it ain’t funny.  I’m just not a “laugh tracks” kind of guy.

*If you liked this post, you may want to try reading “The Art of Being Funny” by Ben Wilder and also “What is Funny?” by Jessica Muto

My 2nd Stand Up Comedy Routine: “Name That Jew!” and Why Baby Boys are Literally Like Monsters

You say “narcissistic” like it’s a bad thing…

It was less than a week ago that I realized something both bloggers and stand up comedians have in common is that in order to be good at what they do, they have to be narcissistic.  When that happened, I realized A) I am narcissistic and B) I should fantasize about being a stand up comic.  I am narcissistic- no doubt about it. But that doesn’t mean that I think I’m better than anyone, because I can assure you that’s not the case.  I’m very aware of my shortcomings and faults.  It’s just that like any obsessive Twitter user, I am also very aware of myself and my own life.

So leave it to a self-proclaimed narcissist to not only publish their first stand up comedy routine, but now their second one today.  I’ve opened this can of Pandora’s box of ironic observations and now I don’t think I can stop.  I may have created a new blog series that you’ll eventually see at the top of this screen in big bold letters.  See, that may my friends, is what being narcissistic is truly all about. My apologies to those of you who have already read dad from day one: Mommy’s Little Monster, since that accounts for a decent amount of material here. Since delivery is a very important of actually being funny, note that for the duration of this post, when you see a set of ellipses points (like this…), that symbolizes the short and necessary pause for the audience to have a chance to laugh.

Announcer: Ladies and gentleman, will you please give a warm welcome to Nick Shell!


“Alright, thanks everybody.  So I guess some of you tonight were invited by a friend who when they told you about me said, ‘He’s a Christian comedian.  You know, he does clean comedy.’  For those of you who have never seen a ‘clean, Christian comedian’ you may be thinking, ‘Ah, great.  He’s just going to be doing fart jokes the whole time.’  But I promise you now: No fart jokes…  Oh, wait… unless that counts as one.

Have you ever met someone who constantly inserts trivial facts into everyday conversation?  Do you know somebody like that?  Well, now you do… because I’m one of those magically annoying people.

I keep waiting for a chance for my super powers to come in handy in a practical way. Really, I think the best thing that could happen is that I could be a guest on a game snow… like ‘Name That Jew!’ You’d have to be the first contestant to hit the buzzer and yell out the name of the Jewish actors or actresses in sitcoms. And it’s hosted by Alan Thicke.

Alan Thicke: In my own sitcom, Growing Pains, name that Jew!

I buzz in, instantly… ‘Jeremy Miller who played Ben Seaver!’

That is cor-rect…  Next, in the coming of age comedy/drama The Wonder Years, name that Jew!

(Again, I’m the first one buzzing in…)

‘Fred Savage who played Kevin Arnold, Jason Hervey who played Wayne Arnold, Josh Saviano who played Paul Pfeiffer- he was half Jewish, David Schwimmer who played Michael- Karen’s boyfriend and eventually her husband, Ben Stein who played Kevin’s science teacher Mr. Cantwell, and lastly, Daniel Stern who narrated the show as Kevin as an adult.’

Correct again…

(And with getting that question alone I’m like automatically promised to make it to the final round.  So I make it to the final question…)

In the #1 sitcom of the 1980’s, The Cosby Show, which featured an African-American family, name that Jew!

Of course, without hesitation, I buzz in right away: ‘Lisa Bonet, who was half-Jewish, played Denise Huxtable’

Alan Thicke: Congratulations! You have won!  You and guest will be enjoying a wonderful 6 day, 7 night stay in the legendary city of Jerusalem, Israel where you will enjoy a complimentary gourmet kosher breakfast each morning…

Yeah, so I think that scenario is the best it could ever get for me being able to utilize my useless information.  Until then, I’ll just keep walking around like Rain Man: Got to watch Full House… Full House comes on at 6 o’clock, got to watch Full House… Bob Saget, Bob Saget… who played Danny Tanner, he’s Jewish… Danny Tanner was Jewish… Got to watch Full House at 6 o’clock…

So, let’s see, what’s new in my life- my wife and I just had our first child.  We have an 8 week old son named Jack…

[females in the audience say ‘ah’, while the males applaud]

Thank you, thank you.  I appreciate that.   Yeah, I always like it when people cheer and applaud me for having sex…  a year ago…

So the weekend after we found out we were having a baby, we spent 45 bucks on ‘cute clothes’ for Jack at a Carter’s outlet…  One of the outfits purchased that day says, ‘Mommy’s Little Monster’.  I’m sure this monster-themed attire was designed with the idea in mind of ‘oh, he’s such a messy little boy… he’s always gettin’ into everything…’.  But for me, I look at this whole ‘boys are little monsters’ as a literal thing… Boys are actually a wonderful representation of what classic monsters are in my mind…

So far, having a baby boy has totally met all my expectations as far as his lack of politeness: passing gas while people hold him for the first time- some of you just caught me doing another fart joke… and the way he also becomes the baby version of an angry, drunk, and ranting Jack Nicholson… the moment he realizes he’s hungry and we didn’t already have a bottle ready for him right that second… Not to mention the percentage of milk that comes out of his mouth as opposed to the amount that goes in and stays in… But I once was a boy- and in a sense, always will be a boy- you know, since [spoken in an Oprah tone] boys will be boys… Baby Jack is indeed a friendly, little beast.  He really sounds and acts like a literal monster…

When he’s sleeping, he often makes this ‘ghurr, ghurr’ sound…  And sometimes instead, the noise sounds more like the Smoke Monster from Lost… [make the sound]  It doesn’t help that he can’t actually speak yet.  How could I not be reminded of a monster when I see a little baby flailing his arms around during pretty much all of his waking hours who makes noises like that scary beast thing (R.O.U.S.) on The Princess Bride?… He’s a monster all right.  But a loveable one.

Yes, Jack is a little bit like the TV version of The Incredible Hulk mixed with Jabba the Hut and a Mongolian warrior. But the most adorable and cuddly version you could imagine.  I love having my own little monster around the house.  I will teach him everything I know.  And that, friends, is the truly scary part about this whole “monster” thing…

Alright everyone, I got to get out of here- my time’s up.  Actually, I’m not leaving. I’m just exiting the stage.  This had been fun, yeah?  See you next time.”

My Stand Up Comedy Routine: Stupid Job Interview Answers

I secretly want to be a stand up comic.  Seriously.

For the past month and a half, my full time job has been looking for a full time job.  Thanks to instant streaming via Netflix (via Wii), I’ve been subconsciously overloading myself with stand up comedy.  In the past week alone, I’ve made it through the first 40 of 240 episodes available for the ongoing series Comedy Central Presents.  And last week, my wife and I spent Friday night seeing a couple of stand up comics who oddly decided to make Fort Payne, AL part of their tour at a restaurant called The Smokin’ Moose.  By now, I’ve got myself convinced that my alter-ego should be a stand up comic.  I believe I could pull it off.

Like a stand up comic, I am constantly noting awkward and weird social situations, I love communicating and relating with people, and most importantly, I am just enough narcissistic to draw in an audience when I want to.  So recently I began writing my stand up comedy routine, in my head.  But because of my narcissistic ways, I am sharing what I’ve come up with so far.  Since delivery is a very important of actually being funny, note that for the duration of this post, when you see a set of ellipses points (like this…), that symbolizes the short and necessary pause for the audience to have a chance to laugh.

Announcer: Ladies and gentleman, will you please give a warm welcome to Nick Shell!


“Alright, thanks everybody.  So, predictably, I watch a lot of stand up, and something I always think is funny is when the comedian walks out on the stage and the first thing he says is, ‘How are ya’ll doin’ tonight, everybody?!’ Because as an audience member of any congregation, whether it’s a Dave Matthews Band concert, an Easter sunrise church service… a community college graduation… or especially watching stand up comedy, my answer to that question is always, ‘Well, I don’t know yet.  I just got here.  But I’m not all happy and excited because you’re implying that I should be…”

It’s like when an adult says to a kid, ‘Are you enjoying your first week of 2nd grade?’, as the adult shakes their head ‘yes’, pressuring the child to only answer in agreement…

So, Mr. Comedian/Leader Singer of a Rock Band/Key Note Speaker at a Sales Conference in Cleveland, Ohio… I will only have a good time if I decide I want to, thank you very much…  But again, more importantly, I don’t know yet if I’m having a good time, typically when I’m asked that question.  You know, shouldn’t that be a question you’re asked near the end of event?…  Or everyone in the audience could fill out a secret ballot on a scale of 1 to 10 how good of a time they had… And they’re all emailed the results the next day… [spoken in a nerdy voice] ‘73% of the people had a good time, based on the fact they marked a 7 or higher…’

Or maybe, I’m misunderstanding the question all together.  Maybe whether or not I am in that moment having a good time is based on the events leading up to showing up to the event.  Like, before I got there, I went to Applebees and I ordered the Zesty Western Burger, without bacon because I only eat kosher, and the waiter forgot, and brought the burger to me with bacon… But because to me the combination of complaining and eating doesn’t make for an appetizing meal, I just quietly scrape the bacon off the burger with my knife which I never use.  And even though the burger is really good, I still have slightly bothered by the fact that the ‘essence of bacon’ is implemented onto the beef patty…

And then I got to the event, I had to pay 5 bucks to parking, which isn’t a lot of money, but it’s how much I could have payed for an overpriced beer there but I still buy an overpriced beer anyway- even though it’s a struggle to spend that much money on one bottle of beer when I only paid 7 dollars for a six-pack of Blue Moon which is sitting in my fridge right now…

So, am I having a good time?  You tell me…

I just recently had to find a new job when I moved from Nashville.  Has anybody else recently had to go in for a job interview?

[acknowledge the first person that says yes]

I love the stock questions they ask you.  I bet you 20 minutes before you show up, they’re like, ‘Ah, crap!  I have to interview that guy today!” And then they hurry up and Google ‘what to ask a person in a job interview’.  So they ask these seemingly intimidating questions that they themselves don’t know even what the ideal answer is supposed to be…

Like, ‘So, where do you see yourself in 5 years?’

I should be like, “Uh… alive, working here, answering questions I can’t answer about my future… pretending to having slightly impressive psychic abilities… though I didn’t realize that was part of the job description…”

And this question, “What would you say your strengths are?

‘Well… Let me tell you… I am awesome!  I bench press 350 pounds…  I cut out the floorboard of my car and just rock it Fred Flintstone style… Whenever I see a phonebook I’m always tempted to rip it in half… Which I can totally do right now if you want me to, especially if it will get me this job…’

A little bit about me- I’m not into a sports, probably because the only sport I’m good at is Corn Hole; and that just sounds horrible.  Oh yeah, and I can solve the Rubik’s Cube in less than 5 minutes every time.  So at best, I consider myself a sports agnostic. My college degree is in English, only because at 20 years old I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew I was really good at BS-ing… so, clearly, a degree in English was the way to go.

So in review, I’m not good at sports, I don’t eat pork or shellfish, I look like a cross between Paul Rudd, David Schwimmer who played Ross on Friends, and brothers Ben Savage who played Corey Matthews on Boy Meets World and Fred Savage who played Kevin Arnold on The Wonder Years , plus I’m an entertainer… Ladies and gentleman, by default, that makes me… a Jew…

That’s right- a Jew from Alabama… You don’t see those every day, do ya?

No, honestly, it’s not all that much of a stretch.  Everyone’s got that one person in their family who is the official Family Tree Climber… You know, the only person who goes through the trouble to research the family’s ancestors and heritage. Really, they could tell the family anything and the family would kind of have to believe it.  So I’m that guy, the Family Tree Climber.  And thanks to an Ullman, a Wiseman, and a Green, I’ve done the math, and at best, I’m 1/8 Jewish.  That doesn’t really count though, does it?…

That’s like a white dude saying, ‘Yeah, I’m Asian. My great-grandfather was half-Cherokee Indian, and since the Native American Indians actually migrated from across the Bering Straight from Mongolia originally, and Mongolians are Asians, that makes me part Asian.  So it’s no coincidence now that I drive a Toyota Camry and love a good sushi roll and dated a half-Korean girl in college, because hey man, it’s all just my true heritage coming out, you know?…’

For what it’s worth, my mom is half Mexican and Italian- that’s the real reason I look so Jewish.  So my grandma is completely Mexican, but like, ‘Mexican’ before it was a racial slur.  You know what I mean?…  She doesn’t speak any Spanish and she was born in Buffalo, New York, so if anything she has a Yankee accent, but not a Mexican one…  What’s really funny though is until last year, she lived in a trailer park.

Back in the ’80’s, she was surrounded by rednecks: Camaro’s with t-tops all around, Lynyrd Skynyrd playing loudly, empty cans of Bud Light scattered along the gravel parking lot.  But by the late ’90’s, the ‘New Mexicans’ started replacing them.  I remember my grandma telling my sister and me, “I almost called the cops last week, those Mexicans killed another goat right outside my window again, then cooked it over a fire for dinner…”  I was tempted to say to her, “Uh, Grandma, you’re 100% Mexican.  You’re technically one of them.  If your parents hadn’t moved from Mexico to New York in the 1930’s, I would have grown up eating your goat meat quesadillas with fried pig ears on the side.”  But I didn’t. That’s my Mexican grandma.

Alright everyone, I got to get out of here- my time’s up.  Actually, I’m not leaving. I’m just exiting the stage.  Yeah, it’s kind of awkward, because the table where I’m sitting is right next to the bathroom… So guys that I have to pee really bad right now, I guess I’ll be seeing you in minutes when you walk towards me then immediately dart for the bathroom door pretending not to see me.

This had been fun, yeah?  See you next time.”

Today is Copyrighted

Important Rule in Life: When someone asks you “what’s up?”, it’s good to have something cool or funny to say.

A good thing to ask yourself at the end of each day is “What happened today that makes this day different from every other day I’ve lived?”  So many of the days of our lives seem normal and insignificant.  As a way of making them seem more meaningful, I like to observe what makes each day special.  It makes future conversations more interesting. 

Like today, I jumped in my Honda Element for the drive to work, and immediately I was taken back to the smell of the boys’ locker room from my high school in 1996.  But there are never dirty clothes in my car and I never leave the windows down (in the event it had rained during the night) and there’s no carpet in my car at all.  So why did my car smell like a sour milk sock?  I endured the odor for 22 minutes until I arrived at work when I took a minute to sniff around, but to no avail.

Six hours pass and I’m getting my mountain bike out for my lunch break ride.  And near the front of the bike tire, underneath my emergency hoodie, was a black-and-brown banana, wrapped up in a clear plastic grocery bag from Publix.  And then I thought to myself, “So that’s where left that banana!”  I’m thinking it had been there for around 16 days.  It was so rotten that it was liquefying and running out of the bag.  Good thing I keep emergency Wet Wipes handy.

That mildly entertaining story will become the copyrighted material of today.  It’s why today is different than any other day of my life.  Nothing too dramatic or life-changing.  At best, just a reference I can make at some point in the future in a conversation with a group of friends where the conversation topic is “smelly things”.  This day will live in infamy.  And comedy.