In Memoriam – Joe Razo

Artist - Marco Razo

Artist – Marco Razo

You probably don’t know this but when you left, your father painted a portrait of you and gave it to me.

Months after you were gone, I got a 5×8 manila envelope in the mail. The blandness of it, the everyday feeling of it, made it feel personal somehow. The hand written address. The special occasion postage stamps. Marco really wanted me to have it. I love the way he loved you. 

The blue and orange watercolors seep into images that run through the intentional lines of his pen. It reminds me of your profile. The short hair you kept, a carefully constructed bird’s nest of ink strokes. The length of your profile – that long neck always looking slightly higher as if you could see the nearness of the future.

The fullness of your top lip. Plump and smirking, bringing to life your childlike playfulness.

Your eyes always full. Gushing with infinite curiosity.

Your sweater, a loud orange bursting to life off the page. Just as you burst to life. A lasting impression. Still viscerally felt. Still present on the page.

Just thought you’d like to know.

We are all more alive because you were.

Ice Ice Baby

Video

There are few things I can get this excited about so when I see Sammich lose her mind over a simple piece of ice it makes me a little jealous.

The way the anticipation builds every time she hears the ice bucket.

Snatching a piece of ice and running with it only as far as she can stand before the chill is too much for her jowls.

The slippery play, back-and-forth, as she and the ice skate across the hardwood floors.

The way she feels dared by the ice to grab it and hold on for as long as possible.

The way she throws her ears around in a happy neurotic fit.

The way she lights up at the thought of getting to play with this slippery lil’ thing.

Ice, ice for my baby.

Sammich

 

Sammich in the garden.

Sammich in the garden.

Her name is Sammich and she came to us last May.

Baby girl.

Sammie & Me

Sammie & Me

She was the littlest potato I’d ever seen. Wobbling around in her little seven week old body – fearlessly strutting around her new found territory. She has always been a huge fan of naps. As a baby, she would snuggle up tight and tuck her pink nose under your sleeve, but she would move the moment you touched her – stripper rules.

Sammich cuddling with her Tia.

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Fortunately, we have showered her with affection – whether she wanted it or not – 24-7. I don’t know if we soften her or if she’s just getting sweeter as she gets older – but she melts my heart on the reg.

She is a lemon beagle and like any good hound is a BIG howler. I like to think of it as her exercising her right to express herself – be it barking at the neighbors, their dogs, the FedEx guy, her reflection in the skylight, or the gigantic exercise ball.

Sammich's best friends

She loves playing outside and can’t see a dog on TV without barking at it. Her favorite thing in the world, though, is a spontaneous play sesh with her best friends. We got Sammich at the same time some of our close pals were adding pooches to their own families. We get to raise them together and watching them play is one of the funniest things in the universe. Taco nights are WAY better with dogs!

Daddies girl. This is the look of love. Tahoe girl

She’s definitely a handful – the best worst dog in the world. She’s loving, and fierce, and funny, and my little girl. Excited for all the adventures to come.

What to know:

Our pets take care of us as much as we take care of them. #adoptdontshop East Bay SPCA.

Follow Sammich & me on Instagram for more photos.

East Bay SPCA

“We couldn’t do it without our volunteers. The amount of hours our volunteers put in each year equal that of eighteen full time employees. So, we’re really glad you’re here.” Our volunteer coordinator, Laila, seemed as excited to have us as we were to be there. After beginning our search for the perfect pooch for our family we wanted to find a way to use our time to help all those animals we were coming across that we couldn’t adopt. We contacted our local SPCA and said, “Let us walk dogs and tell everyone we know about them!” After what equated to a ‘hell yeah, come on down’, we pulled up to the East Bay SPCA facility to start our volunteer training.

“Ok, so we’ve talked about about physical characteristics that help us identify the dog’s behavior. Relaxed ears and mouth with a wagging tail would indicate a happy pup, while side-eye and tucked tail would indicate a more fearful animal. So, let’s test you. Mary, what do you see in this picture?”

“Oh, well, that dog is all like ‘What up, babe! Let me lean on you. Wanna play?’ and the other one is all like, “Ew, get this disgusting piece of trash off of me. ”

Silence.

Ben chimes in with, “I see alert ears and ‘whale-eye’ (i.e. side-eye) so I would say that dog is uncomfortable.” Laila looks to me, and then Ben and says, “Yes”.

Okay, so maybe I personify dogs. Maybe I see dogs as more aware, cute, little human babies. Whatever it is, I’ve never met a dog I didn’t immediately fall in love with and whose cheeks I wanted to squeeze. Volunteering at the SPCA to walk and play with dogs (or sometimes just spend time in the kennel with the more fearful ones) is one of the most uplifting parts of my week. There are too many funny personalities that I get to hang out with every week to not give shout outs and spread the word to all of you out there looking to fall in love with a special pooch. I’m just here to let you know about a few of my favorites. Today, I have a special guy to tell you about.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my pleasure to introduce you to….*drumroll*….

STUART!!

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Ugh, first of all, be still my heart. This is the happiest little man on the planet. I guarantee there is nothing you could do to ruin his mood. This chihuahua mutt is a little ball of energy who loves taking a break from running around the yard to come over and jump in your lap and beg for a belly rub. Last week, some one put a Santa harness on him and my heart almost jumped out of my body.

What To Know:

Check out which dogs are still available for adoption at the East Bay SPCA.

Head over to the Oakland or Dublin locations to meet some cuties.

Want to volunteer? There are many ways to help! Check it out here.

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An Interview With Nick Kocher

nick kocher, comedy, actor, writer

Nick Kocher is the person I’ve known the longest. He was born in January 1986 and was a quiet baby until, three months later, his mother brought him to the hospital to visit me right after I was born. He and his mother rounded the hallway of the hospital and that’s when the screaming started. He used to hate coming over to our house growing up because my brother and I would teach him cuss words and tell him about the real world, which disturbed him greatly. At some point, his fear of me subsided and he became one of my closest friends.

Today, he is an actor/writer/comedian living in Los Angeles. He is responsible for writing, producing, acting, and editing this YouTube video (with over 1.9 million views) in just a weekend. He is one-half of the comedy duo, BriTANick, and performs stand-up, sketch, and improv regularly. I wanted to know more about where comedy has taken him.

Comedy requires a lot of travel. You often perform at sketch comedy festivals and colleges. What is on a comedian’s travel itinerary? What do you pack in your suitcase?

Before I moved to LA from New York, there were frequent trips to the west coast. It’s important to go to LA for pilot season, so all the networks can see you in person and go “No, thank you, too ugly.” Some comedians perform out of town every weekend, for us it’s more sporadic. The occasional college or festival. In my suitcase: consistently there’ll be two more changes of clothes than I actually need. A toiletry bag. And props. Depends on the show we’re doing but often there’s a large fake knife, a silly shakespearean shirt, an old timey hat, fake blood, and two helmets. That’s if it’s a light show. I’ve definitely packed a sillier suitcase than that.

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What are some of the most memorable performances/audiences/venues?

When we played Brandeis, we thought we’d been officially hired for the school’s comedy festival. But it turned out we’d been brought out by just one student. She had gotten into an argument with the faculty who organized the official comedy festival and said something to the effect of, “I can throw a better comedy festival than you.” So it turned out we were playing the unofficial comedy festival thrown out of spite by a single student. The venue was a coffee shop in the middle of the day. I still have no idea if we were even allowed to be there. We couldn’t black out in between sketches because the coffee shop had huge windows through which daylight was streaming through. So in between sketches we told everyone to close their eyes while we did the scene transition. As slapped together as this show was, we had a lot of fun and it still remains one of our favorites.

You do a lot of travel for fun. What impact does that have on your work? Why is it important?

Traveling for fun hurts work in that it takes you away from it. But it helps work, because inevitably, good stories will come out of it.

It’s often hard to fill seats for theatrical shows. There is a strong social element to your work. Many of your friends and fans come out to support BriTANick on a regular basis. What makes BriTANick so socially sticky?

No idea. We try not to worry about promotion too much. We believe if you work hard and deliver a good live show/video/whatever that people will find it eventually and if it’s really good they’ll keep coming back. In promoting things, I just try to have as much fun with it as I can (designing silly posters, making jokes within promotional tweets).

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Who/what made you laugh growing up?

I loved the comic strips in newspapers. Specifically Calvin and Hobbes and Foxtrot. I strongly believe those two strips were how I learned to be funny.

comics

What drew you to comedy?

As a kid I was often teased and bullied. Things started to turn around when I took a page out of a bullies’ book and began making fun of myself. When people are laughing they have a hard time being mean to you. I like when people are not mean to me.

When did you realize you were good at making an audience laugh?

Well I really enjoyed comedy movies, the funny pages, and standup. I would often just parrot back to my friends the funny lines from various things and that would make them laugh. In my experience that’s how a lot of comedians got their start. By stealing. I did that, then I would change a few words to make it funnier in my eyes. Then eventually I began making up whole jokes.

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I loved stories. Personal stories about something interesting that happened over the weekend, or in math class, whatever. I loved telling them and I loved hearing them. I started noticing that whenever I would relate my version of something that had happened, people would laugh even if I wasn’t trying to be funny. I always liked comedy, but I fell like I kinda fell backwards into being funny. I don’t quite understand it.

You studied acting at NYU and remained in New York City for the better part of a decade afterwards. What made you decide to stay in New York City after college and how did that influence you?

I just really loved New York. I still do. It inspires me, there’s always something going on, and you don’t have to drive. I hate driving. I’m glad I spent my twenties in New York. Plenty of people have said this in the past, but I think it’s true: You go to New York to get good at your art, then move to LA to make money off of it. The first part is way more fun.

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Check Him Out

Fanspiration

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“What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?” Lewis, the young photographer, didn’t realized who he was asking. Ben and Platz, bassist and drummer, have tried some weird shit. And then some. “Crispy pig’s head. For sure” answered Platz, easily. “The insect larva in Korea was weirder than the Balut” countered Ben. By the end of this fifteen minute long answer, the catering hall had all but cleared out. Google “balut” and you’ll know why.

I was side stage during the show, watching Lewis weave in and out of the crowd, climbing stairs and flimsy-looking scaffolding to get the perfect shot. Radioactive is the blow-out hit for every concert (obvi) so the guys always end with it. They rushed off stage to sneak behind the curtain and catch their breath before popping back on stage for a surprise encore. Platz, our drummer, runs off stage and before disappearing behind the curtain, walks over to Lewis and hands him his show drumsticks. It’s hard to capture the pure disbelief and overwhelming joy that streaked across his face. His jaw fell so hard, I thought it might actually hit the floor. “He’s fan-boying out” said his friend Mr. Combover.

Fan boys weren’t the only ones enjoying the night. There were two girls, couldn’t have been older than 12 or 13, constantly standing and looking at each other, looking at the band, and screaming. This was clearly the best night of their pre-teen lives. If I had to venture a guess, I’d say they listened to the entire rock album while they got dressed and did each other’s make up. If their parents were there, they were clearly banished to a section far enough away that no one would guess that these girls were chaperoned. They kept looking at each other for reassurance that yes, in fact, this was the best night ever and yes, the lead singer did, in fact, make eye contact with them. I pointed out these two to the lead singer’s wife who, like me, could totally relate to this teen-girl freak out. “We have to do something for them” she plotted. A few moments later, she returned to with two signed photographs of the band and walked right up to them and handed them over. Much like Lewis, the overwhelming euphoria covered them. And us. We’re all fans of something and this night, I was a fan of the fans.