Hear Me Roar

I was walking through Washington, DC this morning and heard the pounding of drums as I approached Dupont Circle. The rhythmic pull drew me in from blocks away. As I entered the park I saw an all-womens drum line. People were gathering around as they played.
The women were fierce. There were probably close to forty women, ranging from their twenties to about their sixties and they exuded such energy, power and joy as they played. There was a primal thrust to their drumming as they swayed together and pounded their instruments, occasionally letting out a yell.
Their expressions varied, some beamed as they played and others were serious and focused, transfixed by the rhythm and the energy surrounding them. Each possessed their own style within the whole; some performed with a flourish and others were more contained and reserved. I stood, watched and listened, taking in the sights and sounds all around me. The crowd gathered around, some dancing, some swaying slightly, others standing still, watching intently.
After a few minutes I filled with emotion as I watched these women banging their drums, swaying en masse and shouting to the heavens. I experienced it as an offering of praise and gratitude to women; their beauty, their power, their strength. I thought of my mother and my sisters. I thought of life and childbirth and how it all emanates from a woman. I also thought about my own soulmate and offered that up to the heavens along with the hopes, dreams and passions of everyone else gathered in the park on a beautiful spring day, swaying to the sound of the drums.

These Dream Things Are Real, Man

“These dream things are real, man.”
George Carlin

Fifteen years ago I decided to become a standup comedian. I had just received my master’s degree in elementary education, which I was proud of but I knew in my heart that there was more I wanted to achieve and experience.
I set about pursuing a career in comedy by night while teaching music by day. I did both jobs for five years, gradually climbing the ladder in comedy to the point where I was starting to eke out a living. Finally, after that fifth year teaching I decided it was time to listen to my instincts and pursue comedy full time, letting go of the safety net of my day job.
Following my instincts is the single most important factor in shaping the life that has unfolded for me. The whispers inside that say “Yes, you can do this” and “Follow this direction” are sacred whispers, I believe, guiding you toward the path you were meant to take. I am grateful to my parents for instilling a faith in myself and in those instincts because it has given me the life I dreamed of and more.
My recent return from Egypt and Kuwait has me reflecting on this wonderful life that I have been fortunate to experience. As with any success, it has been a combination of hard work, luck and patience. Again, following my instincts has opened the doors to a life of beautiful people, places and experiences which have enriched me beyond measure.
I was thinking of some of those people, places and experiences:
- I have opened up for Chuck Berry, Smokey Robinson, Joan Rivers, Joy Behar, Dennis Miller, Jon Stewart, Louis CK. I have worked with countless talented comedians; beautiful, artistic, creative souls who have enriched my life.
- I have performed in more than half of the fifty states and internationally in Amman, London, Manchester, Cairo, Alexandria, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Montreal and Toronto.
As George Carlin said, “These dream things are real, man.” I know they are because I have seen it with my own eyes. At times it has been a struggle and I have had doubts and disappointments, nights where I felt defeated and wondered if I had what it takes. But I always continued on, knowing that the whispers inside were real and true. They were saying “You can do this, Teddy. It is in you.”
I am grateful for this indescribable life of wonder, opportunity, challenge and reward. The people I have shared the journey with and the experiences I have gathered have made me the person I am. The whispers within say “There is more on the way” and I know it is true. I will continue to work hard, follow my instincts and give thanks for every precious moment of this beautiful journey.
These dream things are real, man.

The Wonder Of It All

Today we traveled to see the Egyptian pyramids, the only remaining ancient wonder of the world from the original seven. Our group was traveling from Cairo to Alexandria for our next show and, on the way, we stopped to visit the pyramids.
It was breathtaking to be standing next to ancient history. Of course, many of the locals try to scam you by selling you souvenirs, basically throwing them at you and insisting you take something.
One thing we did partake of was a camel ride. Myself, Ahmed Ahmed and Angelo Tsarouchas each decided to take advantage of the rare opportunity to ride a camel next to an ancient pyramid. Angelo was first and watching it unfold was one of the more memorable experiences of my life, much less the trip.
Angelo is a big guy, as he says “between 325 and 350″. The skinny whip of an Egyptian man prodded Angelo to climb aboard the camel, so he did, thinking he would just sit on the camel for a picture. Angelo had on a native headwrap, as well, adding to the fun. Once Ang was aboard, the camel yet out a yelp like I’ve never heard from any animal as he straightened to a fully upright position.
I should mention that Angelo is one of the most fun, silly, good time guys I’ve ever met so he immediately started laughing; half nervous and half excited. The camel started trotting and Angelo started howling with laughter. He looked like a big kid having the time of his life. He couldn’t believe that he was riding a camel and he continued to laugh the whole time, his whole face lit up.
Myself and Ahmed climbed aboard our camels and followed behind Angelo. Here we were, three comedians; one from New York, one from L.A. and one from Canada, riding camels in Egypt by the pyramids.
Once we got to the top the shakedown began as the local guys who own the camels began asking for money. We each gave them 100 pounds, which amounts to about $30. The Egyptians who were with us were aghast, saying we had been robbed, but to us it was completely worth it, something you couldn’t put a price tag on for those memories.
We went on to Alexandria after that and, due to very heavy traffic, arrived at the venue at 5:55 for a 6pm show. The crowd was filing in when we rushed in towards our dressing rooms. We felt like a rock band, moving en masse with all our equipment and the people working for the tour accompanying us. I felt a strange satisfaction and pride in the fact that we, as comedians, can arrive and flip the switch almost instantaneously.
We all washed up and changed, still pulsing with excitement from our trip to the pyramids, and proceeded to give the wonderful people of Alexandria an incredible show. This was the first live standup show in Alexandria and the crowd couldn’t have been more appreciative and excited.
It was an amazing cap to an amazing week. A week that started in Kuwait, a beautiful land of gracious and hospitable people; they presented each of us with a rare set of Kuwati commemorative coins from the Kuwait government as well as a special commemorative dinar celebrating the second anniversary of Kuwait’s liberation.
Cairo was energetic, hectic, busy, crowded, alive and dizzying. It was like New York on crack. Drivers are truly insane and don’t seem to abide by any rules of the road. Pedestrians walk wherever and whenever they please, even out into speeding, oncoming traffic. And nobody seems to get irritated, either. If a person walks out into traffic the car barely slows down and almost hits them but nobody reacts, it’s all just part of the ebb and flow of Cairo.
But the people are joyous, demonstrative, gracious and incredibly welcoming. Like the Kuwaitis, they treated us like dignitaries the entire trip.
Alexandria was right on the Mediterranean and much less cacaphonous than Cairo; less populated and less whirlwind. Though we only spent an evening there I found the people to be warm, gracious and wonderfully appreciative.
In all of our meet and greets after shows the people were so thankful for our trip to perform in their homelands. The people expressed such sincere gratitude to all of us and asked that we please come back again soon.
Because live standup comedy is in its infancy in this region of the world the crowds are not nearly as nonchalant or cavalier about seeing a show. They are thrilled to be there; attentive, excited and appreciative, start to finish. And I don’t think we had one interruption to a performance the whole week, other than perhaps a baby crying.
In two hours I take a cab to the airport. I am ready to fly back home after a beautiful journey, one that has educated me, buoyed me and nourished me. I am grateful for the incredible experiences I have shared with my fellow comedians and the many wonderful people of Kuwait and Egypt who went so far out of their way to say, in word and deed, “Welcome!” I thank you, one and all.

Larger Than Life

Today we had some press set up at the Virgin Mega Store in Cairo. Virgin is one of the sponsors and also where people can buy tickets to our shows, so the promoters set up a meet and greet for us to sign autographs there.
I don’t know how it came up but on the way there, Taylor- a camera guy shooting a documentary, AngeloTsarouchas- one of the other comics, and I were talking boy bands. We mentioned Backstreet Boys vs. Nsync, New Kids On the Block and their newer incarnation as N.K.O.T.B. and, of course, New Edition. I, myself, am still partial to New Edition and all the others were watered down versions of them, in my opinion.
When our van arrived at the mall we were greeted by a cadre of squat, buff security guys in black suits. They ushered us into the mall and up to the Virgin Megastore. Mind you, Ahmed Ahmed and Maz Jobrani, the two other comics on the bill, are big stars in this region of the world and may need security when entering a mall in Cairo. Angelo and I, however, were in no danger of being recognized much less attacked. Not that I didn’t appreciate our crack security but I couldn’t help but laugh as I entered the mall surrounded by these guys straight out of the Matrix. It dawned on me that this is what it must have been like for those boy bands back then, being ushered from one press event to the next, surrounded by security.
We went upstairs to the executive offices of Virgin and did some television interviews with what seemed like their version of Access Hollywood. Then we went downstairs to the store area and, as expected, not many people noticed us or approached us. The Virgin employees were actually the only ones who asked us to pose for pictures. Again, I don’t suspect they knew me or Angelo but their attitude seemed to be “I don’t know who these guys are but it’s better than a typical day around here. I haven’t done jack shit all day and it’s already 4:30. Two more hours and I’m outta here!”
It was pretty funny because, as the day wore on, the security guys must have realized “What the hell are we protecting these guys for?” and they must have left. We entered like rock stars but by the end of the day there we were basically just walking around the store like any other customer. Even the employees seemed to be like “You guys are still here?”
But the shows are tomorrow night at a 2,500 seat venue and apparently they are both close to sold out. Standup comedy is very new so apparently people are clamoring to buy tickets and experience it live. It’s cool to be part of something that is still new and exciting for everyone, but as the Backstreet Boys can tell you, sometimes it can warp your perception of reality. Hopefully, like them, I’ll be able to stay focused, humble and keep my feet on the ground.

All you people can’t you see, can’t you see
How your love’s affecting our reality
Every time we’re down
You can make it right
And that makes you larger than life