Saturday, August 28, 2010

SNL: The Good Old Days - Volume 1

I became a fan of Saturday Night Live at a very early age. I can remember watching two shows with my parents as a very little kid: China Beach and Saturday Night Live. Not sure that I really understood what I was watching in China Beach, but I know I sure did laugh a lot at the early ‘90s cast of SNL. *queue the “I Love the ‘90s” theme song*

The early ‘90s cast was so clutch that you couldn’t not get hooked. They really ushered in a new generation of comedians after the original late ‘70s cast established the show. It’s kind of hard to follow up comedic legends like John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase (slightly more than one season) and the lovely Gilda Radner. But SNL kept at it, bringing in fresh new talent from all over the nation decade after decade. In the early ‘80s they introduced a young kid with no experience named Eddie Murphy. Then they brought in Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jim Belushi and Billy Crystal and Martin Short.

Late ‘80s SNL introduced us to Phil Hartman, Dana Carvey, Mike Myers, Robert Downey Jr., Dennis Miller, Kevin Nealon, and Ben Stiller (one season). Of course I’m omitting many talented people, but look at those names. LOOK at those names! SNL jump-started many famous comedic actors’ careers. How awesome would it be to know you did that with a show you wrote/produced?

And then there’s the beloved early ‘90s cast that I love, that hooked me and my good friend Matt into a show that would mold our personalities and lives more than we’ll ever know. They brought in Chris Farley. Tim Meadows. Chris Rock. Adam Sandler. (Yes, I’m putting periods after each FREAKING INCREDIBLE COMEDIAN to emphasize their legendariness.) And Rob Schneider, David Spade, Norm Macdonald, Jay Mohr, Sarah Silverman, Janeane Garofalo and Molly Shannon.

The late ‘90s cast kept us glued to the sets on Saturday nights as well, even when there were great pasture parties happening. That really means a lot when high schoolers are passing up parties to watch your show—the writers should be honored! They introduced Jim Breuer, Will Ferrell, Darrell Hammond, Cheri Oteri, Chris Kattan, Colin Quinn, Tracy Morgan, Jimmy Fallon, Chris Parnell, and Horatio Sanz. This is also when the adorable Tina Fey became a writer for the show. Coincidence that the show was amazing and she was the head writer? I don’t think so. They didn’t just give her her own show (see 30 Rock) for those dimples—the girl has got skillz. Yes, with a Z.

In the early 2000’s (what the hell do we call this time period…I can’t say early oh-oh’s—it just sounds weird), Tina Fey made it into the cast while also continuing to write for the show. I guess you can do that when you’re the head writer. Amy Poehler arrived soon after and the next few years are when I started to lose interest because the show stopped churning out quality acts. (I was also in college at the time, so I definitely wasn’t staying in on a Saturday night to watch SNL!) But I mean c’mon…just counting the ones above that I liked, SNL spit out 40 comedians. Some of them didn’t pan out to do much else, other than SNL skit-inspired movies, but most of them used the show’s success as a spring board for bigger and grander things.

So enough yacking… I’m starting a new series to cover my favorite SNL skits. I’ll post five videos every now and then of skits that drove me to tears with raucous laughter. Skits that Matt and I would recite verbatim whenever we wanted. All the time. So much so that my fondest memory of his mother is of her smiling while rolling her eyes and then saying “I don’t get it…” because she hadn’t seen the show. Skits that influenced my purchases of every single Adam Sandler CD. So without further ado, I present my first selections in no particular order or ranking.

CELEBRITY JEOPARDY: This ongoing skit was the basis behind me buying a t-shirt that says "THE PEN IS MIGHTIER" that no one seems to understand but me and maybe 3 other people. Darrell Hammond as Sean Connery kills me EVERY time—his banter with Will Ferrell (as Alex Trebek) is and will always be timelessly hilarious. Easily my most favorite SNL series skits of all time!

NADEEN and SIMMA DOWN NA: To me, this is one of Cheri Oteri’s funniest skits. (Please pardon the video quality; a lot of these videos are hard to find online and what’s out there on the “world wide interweb” isn’t all that great for some of the lesser-known skits.) I’m not even sure where her character is from to determine her accent's origin, but anytime I hear the singer Donna Summer’s name mentioned I think of Cheri Oteri reversing the name and stretching it out to “Summa Don-na” and shooing Ana Gasteyer out of Burger Castle.

NICK BURNS: One of Jimmy Fallon's finest characters, everyone can relate to Nick Burns. I can think of one IT guy at my job who answers the help line. He’s just like this guy, only a tenth as smart, and my friends who I work with will immediately know who I’m referring to. Either way, I love how Fallon rocks this character. MOOOVE!

CAJUN MAN: Ahhhhhhhhhh, Cajun Man. You provided Matt and I with so much in high school. We absolutely wore this skit out. Day in and day out. We would incorporate the Cajun accent into everything! "Jim Morrison" "Defecation" "Melon!" "Meh, rejection" "Lesbian!" "Intuition" hahaha I'm cracking up just writing this. "KEVIN NEALON!"

SCHWEDDY BALLS: One of my two favorite, incredibly hilarious, all-time favorite Alec Baldwin (guest host appearance) skits. His cool, calm demeanor was spot-on for his character’s radio voice. I love that he’s getting so much love and praise for 30 Rock, because the guy is truly talented. Even with his small, but famous, role in Glengarry Glen Ross, you knew this guy was going to do great things with his career.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I’m nutella’n you this for your health…okay maybe I am

Part two of my Nutella series for awesome baked goods that even dudes can make: Nutty Nutella Oatmeal Chip Cookies. I found this modified peanut butter oatmeal cookies recipe online in my search for ways to incorporate my newly favored spread in any and everything possible. It was a bit labor intensive since I forgot we have a stand-up mixer, but the end result was every bit worth the extra elbow grease.

nutty nutella oatmeal chocolate chip

A few Friday’s ago, while trying to knock out debt by staying in for the night I decided to try out this tantalizing recipe. I will warn you, these cookies totally go against my normal try-to-eat-healthy diet…but they’re worth it! Armed with nothing but a Monster and a burning desire to satisfy the cookie-craving hole in my soul, I set out to make my first set of non-break ‘n’ bake cookies from scratch. Break ‘n’ bake are good—I’m not knocking them. Their ease and taste even the playing field, making everyone a baker. But the satisfaction of making cookies yourself, with your hands and strength and patience, totally comes out in the way the made-from-scratch cookies taste. Your audience can taste the love and care you put into them, and ultimately that’s what you want—customer satisfaction.

I won’t tell you how to make the cookies; you can follow the directions in the link posted above. I will give my commentary on how these bad boys were made and how they turned out! First, I started off acquiring the necessary ingredients.

ingredients the goods

Sure, you might be thinking: what the hell are you doing baking? It’s the one of the least manliest things ever. Well, you’ll be happy to know that I recently finished restoring a 1928 Triumph Speed Twin 5T. I held a door open today for an elderly woman. Once, I wrestled a Texas mosquito to the ground. I sharpen my Bowie knife using my teeth…after downing a pint of Guinness in one gulp. I once drove to Michigan without using a map or GPS. Or asking for directions. I think I’ve built up enough man credits in order to bake my own damn cookies, thank you very much.

Following the directions, I start to see that this is going to be one thick mix…and I haven’t even added the oats or nuts or chocolate chips! Using a teaspoon to stir, I add the required eggs, oatmeal, hazelnuts and chocolate chips to the sugar-nutella-flour mix.

con huevosthick stuffyes, that's a spoon standing up in the middle

I put small golf ball size portions on a bunch of cookie sheets and baked at the recommended temperature for about 10 minutes.


The recipe made about four dozen (I was able to get four baker’s dozen) super amazing cookies. Not gonna lie—I got a little too excited when I saw all these cookies ready to be devoured!

nutty nutella cookies Nutty Nutella Oatmeal Chip Cookies

IMG_1455 this scavenger showed up when the heavenly smell overwhelmed her from two counties away

final result 
my feeble attempt at a trendy food magazine photo shot

So the end result? Simple put: amazing. I think I ate half a dozen the first night. Then another dozen the next few days. It was difficult restraining myself and not eating more! I took a dozen to a friend’s place for their approval—one religiously makes delicious cookies and selflessly shares the wealth so I had to take her some. I took the remaining two dozen (or so) to work and they were gone in the first hour. I actually had two people kinda upset I hadn’t told them about the cookies soon enough before they disappeared—they really wanted to try them! Hearing how amazing they were from other people in the trading and accounting departments only made them more desirable. And so the legend of the Nutty Nutella Oatmeal Chip Cookies grew…

My score for use of nutella in these cookies is a 10 out of 10, better known as “a must bake!” Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get back to installing a kegerator in my man cave.

NOTE: The only modification I made to the recipe above was doubling the chocolate chip amount to a full cup. Because, well…the more chocolate, the more satisfied the customer!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Beards are for winners

Most of the greatest men to walk this earth have rocked a beard. Some were long and some were of a more respectable length. You’ve got Jesus Christ, Socrates, Che Guevara, Willie Nelson, Robert E. Lee, Abraham Lincoln, Colonel Sanders, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Chuck Norris…the list could go on for a while. There’s even a bearded dragon, which was once just a regular, boring dragon until it realized the hidden powers the beard instills. These guys (and some women) have realized one thing: beards command attention. Beards say Hey, look at me. The mouth I encompass has something very important to say. Beards say I make my owner very wise-looking.

As with all things, there are pros and cons to be weighed before proceeding with the adventure of growing your own beard. Let’s see what we can come up with (feel free to add more in the comments section below):

1) Beards are sometimes a little itchy. Go wash your face you dirty-faced dude!
2) Beards have the potential to make you look rather vagrantly if not maintained properly.
3) If not sculpted correctly, beards have the great ability of displaying your true douchey-ness.
4) Facial hair tends to gray faster than head hair, causing confusion in many as to your actual age. Facial hair coloring is often the best solution, which if you are a real man is no solution at all.
5) Beard growth implies ultimate bachelorhood“Sorry ladies, I’m off the market and not even trying!”

1) Beards are huge flavor-savers; they catch everything. You know when you’re drinking your cereal milk too quickly and it escapes your mouth just to trickle down your face and onto your pants? With a beard, you don’t have that problem because it catches the milk before it soils your britches.
2) Beards make you look older and therefore wiser. Sad, but true—I did not get my “senior” accountant promotion until I grew a beard. I suppose I needed to look the part.
3) Beards go well with sweaters. And scarves.
4) Beards can take the attention off of your balding (or already bald) head.
5) Beards make it easier to shave than fully-shaving since there’s less surface area to shave.
6) They’re malleable.
7) Beards are awesome.

The biggest misconception with beards is that chicks hate them. An independent study by the University of Waterloo* in Iowa found 87% of polled women like a man without facial hair. In another study, 91% of polled women like a man with a beard. The first poll was conducted by 10 very good-looking, clean-shaven male models. The second poll was conducted a month later by the same 10 models but who were now donning a month's worth of beard growth. So what the study really found was the women were clearly swayed by the male models’ charm and good looks to vote yes and that having a beard did not affect whether or not a girl would find you attractive! Don’t let girls’ possible thoughts of how a beard would affect your attractiveness deter you from growing one.

If you’re good-looking, a beard is not going to knock you down a notch—it’s all about confidence anyways, right ladies? On the flip-side, if you didn’t have the pleasure of inheriting a handsome mug, you can always use a beard to hide your face so that your awesome personality can stand out!

*Not an actual university.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Free at last, free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! Wouldn’t it be cool if those were my original words? Do you ever have those moments you think something sounds really cool, only to run your checks with Google to see that someone else has already done it, made it, eaten it, said it, encountered it, blogged about it, etc? Yeah…that was me earlier when I clicked the “Submit Payment” button about an hour ago. I was saying “I’m free!! At last! Thank you God!” (a la Dr. MLK’s I Have A Dream) because I’d just accomplished what so many Americans desperately want to do—I just paid off my debt.

$0.00 due? excitement beyond belief.

Poof! My colossal burden is no longer my problem. It’s now my credit card companies’ problem to find revenues elsewhere! I sacrificed a lot, and yet it wasn’t as hard as I’d feared. I won’t say I did this all on my own. I definitely had help; and for that I’m grateful. I gave up my sweet apartment in the medical center area in order to get myself back on the right track. I left all my friends inside the loop behind to move in with my mom. I still paid her rent but at a much lower rate than market! I know what you’re thinking… Dude! You live in your mom’s basement! No! We can toast to the fact that I’m debt-free, yes I watch Californication, but this isn’t some Timbaland song! Plus we don’t have basements in the H. But yes, I live with my mom. At twenty-seven years old, it’s a bit of downer. But it was the responsible thing to do for my future. My future spouse’s future. My future family’s future. I only gave up a year and a half to ensure the rest of my life is going in the right direction. That was my trade-off and how I convinced myself it was the right thing to do. Thankfully I have a loving mother who would actually take her ingrate of a son in for a few months! Now on to how it was done…

In college I had two credit cards with different billing cycles exactly two weeks apart. I would use one credit card for two weeks and then pay it off when it was due two weeks later. While I was waiting to pay credit card one, I’d use credit card two. Both credit cards had rewards programs so I used them instead of my debit card or cash. Both cards were paid off every single month. Doing this allowed me to never have to keep track of the whole “minimum amount due” or “statement balance” or “current balance.” My balance was my balance and there was no confusion. I waited tables at the once-famous Chili’s #249 (holla! fellow chiliheads!) and made really good money. We were the only location for hours, so everyone from mall-goers to people from BFE making their once-a-month trip into the big city would stop in. We were on a wait every weekend night and during the week management would cut servers so that the rest of us could have more tables. I was bringing home two-grand a month in tips at least (because I rocked. Attentiveness and brains go just as far for us non-pretty fellas!) and had way more money than I needed for bills. This was an ideal situation for a college kid who just wanted to have fun!

Skip ahead to post-graduation. I have no “real” job and I’m waiting tables at a new Chili’s in north H. The money is terrible. The area is flooded with all sorts of restaurants so no one wants an awesome blossom. I manage to make really high-percentage tips, but when you only have 5 or 6 tables a night…you can’t really make money. This is where the (slight) downfall starts to begin. The credit cards I once had no trouble paying off are starting to escalate as my spending habits can’t be broken. When I want something, I just go get it. I’ll pay for it later! As my buddy Dave would always quip: I’ll let future Dave worry about that! I thought a couple grand of debt was peanuts when I finally landed my career job!

Only my career job doesn’t pay much because my career is…well, normal? Accountants grow on trees, ya know. So what do I do with my low mid-rangish paying job? I go get a swanky apartment! A treat to myself! And what the heck, I’ll get a brand new SUV while I’m at it too! Idiot. 22-year-old me was an idiot I tell you! Living beyond my means… You can’t phrase it any better. Throw in a few beautiful girlfriends along the way, and my weak, weak, weak frailty for pleasing the ladies and you’ve got yourself a sizeable debt.

Was I worried about it? No. Should I have been years ago before paying thousands of dollars in interest? Sure! But when you see that number slowly rise over time…you never fully realize it’s massiveness until it’s too late. Ever had a long-term girlfriend that was skinny when you first met and fell in love with her? Then when things just don’t work out, you two split and you go back and look at old pictures of all the good times you had? Yeah—you know where I’m going with this. You think: “Wow! Look how skinny I was! Look how skinny she was! I had no idea we’d let ourselves go…” Same thing with credit cards! You’re having so much fun along the way that you don’t even realize the underlying issues that will ultimately be your downfall.

I had a roommate a few years ago who was doing something so noble, it changed my life. He was feverishly paying off debt with a debt consolidation plan, while also saving up for a massive ring to slide on his suspecting girlfriend’s finger. What was admirable was that he probably makes about the same thing as me but he was sacrificing so much more than me. I could see the drive in his eyes to be debt-free before he married this girl and it all clicked: money issues are the leading cause of divorce and he was eliminating that chance! Smart dude.

Now, I wasn’t looking to get married but I did have my sights set on some personal goals that would be hindered with that darned debt monkey on my back. Purchase a house? Get a better rate with no debt! Move to a new, more-expensive city? Make your paycheck go farther with no debt! Want a new job? Reduce your debt, because HR is gonna perform a credit check on you! I started to cut back, but not a lot. It was hard to begin with. I was so used to having fun at the expense of “future David” that I didn’t know how to control myself.

Then my job picked up. I finally started to get noticed for the hard work I was (always) putting in and I was starting to be rewarded appropriately for it. I had a boss I clicked with that enjoyed my working style and the quality work I produced. Then I moved into a three-bedroom apartment and my total “cost of living” dropped a bit! I was able to use that savings to make larger credit card payments. I made payments to all three cards and my line of credit, but I attacked the smallest credit card first like a bully. A few months in and a credit card was down for the count. Months later, another one bites the dust…running away with its tail between its legs. My apartment lease ends and I make the decision to expedite this plan—I move in with la madre. No electricity bill, no cable bill, no internet bill, no water bill—instead I just sprinkle some Benji’s every now and then and everything’s taken care of. Now I realize not everyone has the luxury of moving in with someone and getting free rent or seriously-discounted rent, but this is where I consider myself lucky. Hopefully I can do this for my kid in the future should they need it.

With discounted rent freeing up some serious cash-flow, I paid off my line of credit within the first month. This left just the one colossal credit card to haunt my dreams. The debt mountain looked so tall, but not nearly as tall as it once was. I knew I could do it, it was just going to take an even stronger sacrifice than before. I thought to myself: If I’m gonna live way up here in the boonies, I need to take full advantage of the situation and knock this puppy out (put a sock in a it PETA, no puppies were harmed)! I got a gym membership to eat up most of my free time so that I didn’t spend it trying to spend money. I cut out a lot of my domestic travelling. I sat at home on weekends going into the deepest corners of Netflixville…streaming everything from Sin Nombre to Visioneers. I watched entire seasons of Weeds and Arrested Development.

Where did this extreme dedication and commitment take me? Ultimately, everywhere. I’m free. I’m freee!!! I feel like a college kid again, back when I didn’t have to really worry about debt. I owe no one! It truly feels amazing. If I wasn’t so tired from a 13-hour workday, you’d see more of a hugely ecstatic look on my face! Debt-free. It still doesn’t sound right. It doesn’t look right, flying into the screen, letters arranging themselves in place as my fingers type it. Debt-free! A huge relief. Debt-free. I feel like I’m singing a song now and the chorus is “debt-free.” I like the idea of not having to worry about it anymore. Debt-free is the way for me! Debt-free. I’m rambling. Because it’s late. Dammit! I just realized I owe Neal a Dos XX.

Guess I’ll just have to wait a little longer to be truly free…