Meet Lizzie Beckwith: Comedian, Writer, Mom …

There’s a milestone occurring here @ Daddy Brain. Some might say it’s simply the fact that I’m posting something new (which is another story I’ll detail soon). In reality, it’s the fact that this is the first time I’ve ever highlighted a mom (other than my wife) on this blog.

I’m keeping it in the family (she’s my cousin), but the reason I’m highlighting her is because she’s funny. And she’s written a book that makes an excellent gift for mom (Mothers’ Day is right around the corner) called, Raising the Perfect Child Through Guilt and Manipulation.

According to Lizzie, “this book is not one of those traditional, all-too-earnest parenting guides that, for generations, have sucked all the fun out of child rearing. The foundation of my Guilt and Manipulation family philosophy is simple: we do things a certain way, and everyone else is an a**hole.”

“Is that something you should put on a bumper sticker and slap on your minivan? Of course not — that would be trashy. But in the privacy of your own home, you can employ essential components of Guilt and Manipulation to mold the little runts ruthlessly yet effectively into children you won’t be embarrassed to admit are yours.”

Who is Elizabeth Beckwith, you ask?
Other than funny, Lizzie is a mom of two and the wife of a fabulous guy who shall remain nameless to protect his identity. Lizzie is at the forefront of a new movement: moms being funny about parenthood. Once an exclusive club for dads attempting to cope through comedy, Lizzie offers up laughs in her non-parenting, parenting book. What’s interesting, at least to me, is how the book’s honesty (often laced with sarcasm) really made me think about how I parent without beating me over the head about it.

Lizzie is also a stand-up comedian who has appeared on various talk shows, including The Late Show with Craig Kilborn and Comedy Central’s Premium Blend. She’s also appeared in TV shows, film and and has graced the stage of many a comedy club.

And now, a few words from Lizzie about comedy, her book and Grandma Frances …

Daddy Brain: Other than your comedic nature, what provoked you to write this book?

Lizzie Beckwith: When I was getting ready to have my first child, I was reading a few “real” parenting books and started to find them terrifying. They all stated the importance of having a definitive parenting philosophy, and I didn’t really have a clue what that would be for me. I have always maintained that I was raised by the best parents in the world, so I decided I just wanted to do what they did. They were neither dictators nor pushovers, but we (their offspring) always wanted to please them and feared disappointing them.

As I tried to deconstruct how in the world they managed to be  easy-going, loving parents and yet still pull off being the kind of parents you would be horrified to disappoint, I thought of all of these funny anecdotes and stories about growing up. I realized that my parents kept us in line by giving us non-stop encouragement while at the same time using the horrible example of others to teach us right from wrong. We lived in fear of being like “those jerks!” that my parents were so disgusted by. So, when we did do something bad, we were filled with so much guilt, there was no need for any formal punishment! I joked that if my mother wrote a book it would be called, Raising the Perfect Child Through Guilt and Manipulation, and then I thought, “Hey, I should write that book!”

DB: Why have you chosen comedy as your form of communication? Why not another genre?

LB: I’ve been obsessed with comedy since I was a little kid.  I don’t know how to communicate any other way.  That’s just the way my brain is wired.

DB: Why is stand-up comedy so intriguing to you? Have you ever used a chair?

LB: When I was a kid I used to rent all of those “Evening at the Improv” videos, and I just devoured them. I loved stand-up comedy, but it didn’t occur to me right away that it was something I would ever do. One night when I was about 16, I went to a coffee house with my friend and an open-mic was going on. That was the first time it hit me, “Oh, if I wanted to do this, I could actually do it.  Here.  At this place.”  I went back the next week and performed comedy on stage for the first time. It was thrilling.  It is one of the only artistic mediums where you know instantly if something is working or not. Musicians can hide behind the blare of their guitars, with stand-up, either people are laughing or they’re not. I loved the instant gratification.  Of course, some nights, I wish I was holding a guitar.

DB: Who is the funniest comedian on earth? Why?

LB: I have so many favorites, that’s tough for me to answer, but I think I’ll go with a childhood favorite,  Bill Cosby.  I have so many memories of watching “Bill Cosby: Himself” with my brother, Patrick, and just weeping.  Cosby can weave a story like no one else.  Story-telling comedy is the most difficult type of stand-up because if you lose people early on, there’s not easy exit.  Cosby is a master story-teller. What he’s telling you is hilarious in and of itself, but the way he delivers it — that just brings it to another level.

DB: If you inherited $500 million dollars tomorrow, what would you do with your life?

EB: I would still be pursuing the same dreams, I would just have a nicer bathroom floor to cry on.

DB: Finally, what is your favorite memory of our Grandma Frances? What do you remember the most about her? What are the similarities you see between our Grandma and your mom as a Grandma?

EB: There are so many vivid memories of Gram.  She really was such a strong presence, when she entered a room everyone hopped to attention, it was like General Patton walked in. You knew she was gonna inspect you and make a biting comment based on her observations, but it all came from a place of love. Gram wanted you to be the best possible version of yourself and she would be openly frustrated with you if you fell short of what she believed you could be. It didn’t matter if it was your career or your hairstyle, Gram expected the best out of you.

I guess the thing I remember most about  her was her commitment to prayer. If you were in trouble, Gram would stay up all night saying the rosary for you — and I mean, all night. Not just one prayer at the end of the day kind of deal, she would be lighting candles, saying novenas, praying the rosary — she did it all, and she did it with love and she never complained about it.

I miss her so much sometimes.

Often I’ll hear some kind of political story on the news and wonder what Grandma would have said about it. Gram read the newspaper cover to cover every day until the day she died. She always knew what was happening in the world, and she always had an opinion on it.

As far as the similarities between my mom and Gram as Grandmothers, I would say the common thread is their need to feed their grandchildren. That’s a big one, food. My kids love my mother’s food so much. My son is much more inclined to eat something if I tell him I’m making it “the Grandma” way.

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I hope you enjoyed my interview with Lizzie Beckwith. For more about her book, visit Amazon.com.

And remember, you are not alone…

The Latest Exercise Craze: The Cardio Mow

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For decades, people have been complaining about not having enough time to exercise. And when spring time rolls around, it gets even worse. Yard work starts to take up some of our precious weekend time.

Since you’ve become a dad, you’ve already given up naps, showers and sex — so what’s an aging guy with a growing pot-belly to do?

Fear not, all your problems are solved with…

The Cardio Mow!

Yes, that’s right, now you can combine a healthy cardiovascular workout with your weekend mowing, with the Toro variable speed push mower (estimated top speed is 5 mph).

Trim off those extra pounds as you trim your grass!

If you enjoy sweating profusely and having all kinds of insects stick to your body, then this is the perfect exercise for you. Plus the exciting feeling of seeing just how many dandelion weeds have turned into those spikey, deadly looking mutations can not be matched by traditional forms of working out.

And you thought sleep deprivation was exciting and rewarding.

And remember, you are not alone…

If you like this post, Stumble It!

Easy Decorating Tips for the Holidays

There’s a new trend in holiday decorating, well at least there could be if we start it now.

It will leave us all with extra time on our hands. And it just might save us money, too.

It involves using items found around your house, specifically on your floors and rugs and the result is holiday bliss!

Tired of asking your kids to clean up after themselves? Then use their messes as holiday decoration.

Crumbs on the floor from that cracker snack? No problem. Call them Christmas Crummies and be done with it.

Toys scattered everywhere? Stick some hooks through them, hang ’em on the tree and call them ornaments! 

Who needs tinsel when you can decorate your tree, and your foyer floor with all types of shiny recyclables like tin cans and plastic blister packs with ultra-sharp edges? Now there’s a lesson in merchandising & safety, too!

The great thing about this new holiday craze is that you can practice just about all year round. 

Starting around Labor Day (September) is the best. Start off your decorating by letting those beer cans and chicken bones pile up (from the BBQ). If anybody asks, you just tell them its part of your Labor Day decoration. At first, they may look at you funny, but then the next thing you know they’ll be copying you like a Xerox machine.

For Halloween, simply add some orange junk to spruce up and transform your Labor Day decoration into the picturesque Halloween motif. By mid October, the chicken remnants you left lying around should have turned at least partially green with mold. The insects you’ve attracted add a creepy crawly touch that brings the whole look together. 

Now you might be wondering, how can I top that??

Simple. Let the kids make Thanksgiving dinner. A month early. Let them make it on the living room rug, with extra gravy and chunky cranberry sauce. You can use the leftover Labor Day chicken to make bullion for the turkey. Include the bugs in the stuffing to add a bit of crunch and extra protein. Again, easy decorating that the whole family can enjoy.

Best of all, on Christmas Eve tell the kids they need to clean the entire house or Santa’s bringing NOTHING!

You’ve just saved yourself 4-months of cleaning time and your home will be spotless for the New Year.

And remember, you are not alone…

Funny Dad Week, Part 3: Say Hello to Mike Mercury, He’s Funny!

Who is Mike Mercury, you ask?
Mid-western funny man, father of one and former full-time stand up comedian, Mike bares no resemblance to Freddy Mercury, the late singer of the rock band Queen. To my knowledge, Mike can barely carry a tune. But he is funny.

Mike is currently a professional writer and copy director at a major catalog company in the mid west. He is part of the The Cheese Head Monologues, a trio of Wisconsin comedians who will leave you rolling in the aisles. Mike’s Web site has clips and additional info, including how to hire him for corporate events. Mike will even make fun of the CEO of your comapny if you pay him enough…in advance.

And now, a few words from Mike about comedy…

Why have you chosen comedy as your form of communication? Why not another genre?
I think you have it backwards, Daddy Brain. Comedy chose me.

Also, what makes you think I’ve limited myself to one genre? I’m also an accomplished sculptor, poet and painter.

Okay, not really. But I found your question pretentious and insulting. Like I’m only capable of doing one thing. Maybe I am. So what? Oh, sure, I could’ve been a rap “singer” but who couldn’t? What other “art” form can you openly rip off legitimate artists and call it “sampling?” Those millionaire rap guys are a joke with all their money and sweet cars and big mansions and hot babes and cool clothes. God, I hate them.

Why is stand-up comedy so intriguing to you? Have you ever used a chair?

I think it’s safe to say that stand-up comedy is intriguing to you, seeing how you’re the one asking all the nosey questions about stand-up comedy.

As a kid, what intrigued me about it was that, on the face of it, it seems SOOO simple. You stand there by yourself and you talk. And the audience laughs. At the age of 10 I was naïve enough to think, I could do that.

More intriguing, though, is that once you do it, you discover how maddeningly complex it is. And exciting. There’s nothing like it. I hate to use a cliché, but performing stand up is even better than that cake called Better Than Sex, which as it turns out isn’t even remotely close to being better than the worst sex you’ve ever had in your whole life but relative to other types of cake is pretty darn good. I think they saddled that cake with a bad name, and in the end it does a grave disservice to both cake and sex.

Next time you make love to your wife tell her it was better than cake and you’ll see my point. And perhaps more importantly, if you ever meet the woman who invented Better Than Sex cake, do NOT sleep with her.

And yes, I have used a chair. In fact, I use chairs regularly. They come in very handy when you want to sit down. For instance, I like to kick back in a reclining chair when I read. Right now, I’m sitting in an office chair, which helps keep me elevated just high enough off the floor that I can easily reach the keyboard without straining. Chairs are great. If I ever meet the guy who invented the chair, I’m gonna give him some Better Than Sex cake.

Who is the funniest comedian on earth? Why?

Well, given my relative anonymity, we can safely assume that it’s not me. So who’s left?

I don’t think there’s any such thing as a single funniest comedian on earth. There are lots of really funny comedians and a smaller handful of really exceptional comedians. There are also lots of really funny people that aren’t comedians and never will be because there’s a HUUUUGE difference between being funny at a party with your friends and being funny on cue at 8:00 on a Saturday night right after the emcee introduces you to a crowd of 5000.

To my funny bone, my favorite stand-up comedians include Steve Martin, Jerry Seinfeld, Pat Paulsen, George Carlin, Chris Rock, Ellen DeGeneres, Brian Regan and Jim Gaffigan.

But to be honest, I’m not sure that it’s fair to limit it only to the funniest comedians on earth. If I were asking the question, I would’ve left it more open ended so as not to exclude or offend anyone.

Who is the least funny comedian on earth? Explain their success.

Great question, Daddy Brain. First off, I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to participate in this forum. And I’d like to thank WordPress.com for hosting the event. And I’d like to thank your readers. My friends, my opponent and I have a fundamental disagreement over this issue. Frankly, I don’t think it’s my call to make. Let’s just say that certain names have come up – Dane Cook, Carlos Mencia and Mort Sahl among others. But my opponent and I do agree on one thing and that is that success speaks for itself. As long as it is achieved ethically and legally, the results speak for themselves. So in the end it has to be about job creation. And when the results are in come November, we believe that we will be successful and as president, I can and will fix health care. Thank you.

If you inherited $500 million dollars tomorrow, what would you do with your life?

I suppose I should be deliriously happy. But after I realized that I would have to pay the federal government half the money in estate taxes, I’d be livid. Which would be enough to compel me to run for the US Senate with the single goal of changing the inheritance tax laws in this country. So by the time I fund my campaign, and then lose 40% of the money in the stock market, I’m practically broke. Then I’ll need the federal government to bail me out. Sure, $500 million sounds like a nice chunk of change, but it just doesn’t go as far as it used to when you get right down to it.

Can you share the best joke you’ve ever heard or written?

After re-reading what I’ve written here, I think the thing about Better Than Sex cake might be my best work ever.

How about the worst?

Thank you for the question, Daddy Brain. First off, let me start by saying that it has to be an “all of the above” approach. And that Joe Six Pack doesn’t think about things like the “worst” whatever. We’re Americans. We have a “can-do” spirit. And when push comes to shove, we will win the war in Norway. Thank you.

—- —-

I hope you enjoyed the final installment of Funny Dad Week. To learn more about Mike, visit his Web site, or check out his blog.

And remember, you are not alone…

Related links:

Funny Dad Week: Say Hello to Jeff Sawyer, He’s Funny!

Funny Dad Week, Part 2: Say Hello to Tim Bete, He’s Funny!

Funny Dad Week, Part 2: Say Hello to Tim Bete, He’s Funny!

Who is Tim Bete, you ask?
He’s a dad who’s fascinated with pirates, parenting and making people laugh. He’s written two books: Guide to Pirate Parenting, and In the Beginning, there Were No Diapers: Laughing and Learning in the First Years of Fatherhood. 

Tim also has a Web site called Where I Live. It currently features an article on how losing control of the TV remote (in the hospital) is the most painful part of labor (for men).

I convinced Tim to answer some questions in-between raiding pirate ships and changing dirty diapers. He typed up a response rather quickly for a guy with metal hooks for hands…  

Why have you chosen comedy as your form of communication? Why not another genre?
I don’t think we choose our genres, I think we’re born with them. Some people just have brains wired for humor. The wiring of most humor writers is faulty and wouldn’t get an okay from a housing inspector without a large bribe. Besides, who wants to write other genres? There are too many New-age, Young-adult, Vampire Romance novels.
 
What’s the deal with pirates? Why a whole book exclusively about pirate parenting?
You’re just jealous you didn’t think of it first. There are many good reasons to raise your kids as pirates. Here are five:
* Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him to be a pirate, and he’ll steal other people’s fish for a lifetime.
* Divvying up booty is good quality time with the kids.
* When other parents hear you’re raising your children as pirates, they’ll stop asking you to volunteer at school.
* It’s fun to watch the emergency room doctor’s reaction when you say your son was injured during “a little mishap boarding a merchant vessel that refused to surrender.”
* Replacing “family movie night” with “family terrorizing the neighbors with cannons night” is a wonderful change of pace.
 
Who is he funniest comedian on earth? Why?
Oh, sure, limit the question to the EARTH. You are so narrow minded. The funniest person in the universe is Smilken Fdrwesoret who lives on the planet Flipulus. He’s hysterical! And he does a dead-on impersonation of Intergalactic President Quirtdew Clixzasl.
 
Who is the least funny comedian on earth? Explain their success.
John Candy, although technically I think he’s IN the earth now, not ON it. I can’t explain his success. I never thought he was funny. He’s certainly no Smilken Fdrwesoret.
 
If you inherited $500 million dollars tomorrow, what would you do with your life?
Funny you should ask because that just happened to me yesterday. Unfortunately it’s all gone now. But it was a GREAT 24 hours. Be careful how often you shout, “Let it ride!”
 
Can you share the best joke you’ve ever heard or written?
One of my favorite jokes is from the “three guys walk into a bar” genre. It goes like this:
A baby seal walks into a club.
 
One of my favorite jokes that I’ve written is this:
Q: How can you tell if your child has great potential to be a pirate?
A:  When mom’s water broke, your baby yelled, “I sail with the tide!”

How about the worst?
You mean liver wurst? (That was the worst joke I’ve ever heard OR written.)
—-

I hope you enjoyed the second installment of Funny Dad Week. To learn more about Tim Bete, visit the barge on your local docks, or check out his Web site. If you’re interested in reading more about his pirate book, click here Matey!

And remember, you are not alone…

Related links:
Funny Dad Week: Say Hello to Jeff Sawyer, He’s Funny!

Funny Dad Week: Say Hello to Jeff Sawyer, He’s Funny!

Who is Jeff Sawyer, you ask?
He’s a talented writer with a great sense of humor. And he’s funny, too. Jeff and his wife have two girls in college, so he’ll be working for the rest of his life to help pay off their student loans. He works as a creative director for a large catalog company in the mid west. And he has a blog called, Sawyer Speaks: short original humor, which probably keeps him sane.

One of Jeff’s short stories, Mountain Boomer, was recently published in the book, Humor for a Boomer’s Heart: Stories, Quips & Quotes to Lift the Heart. 

Here’s an excerpt:
“We boomer consumers are a demographic that marketers pursue as relentlessly as ushers chasing a bat during a sermon. We’re sufficiently Web-savvy to analyze their product offerings more thoroughly than any topic of any research paper we ever wrote in college, and affluent enough to more or less afford what we eventually settle on.

Accidental scrutiny of my own physique one morning in my forties (“What is a mirror doing in a bathroom, honey?) led me to purchase a serious rowing machine. I had actually used it, three times a week for years, until a herniated disk left me frozen in the rowing position. Walk around the office with a posture of a Slinky going downstairs, and people are going to think you’re feeling overburdened. Which maybe you are – and the solution to that, they’ll tell you, is exercise…”

I caught up with Jeff (which wasn’t hard with that herniated disk and poor posture) and he was kind enough to answer a few questions about comedy…

Jeff, can you share the best joke you’ve ever heard or written?

My financial plan.
 
Or this one, for David Letterman, early 90’s:
Michael Jackson has just married Lisa-Marie Presley. If Elvis was dead, he’d be turning over in his grave.
 
How about the worst?

Any joke that starts with the word “Knock.”
 
Why have you chosen comedy as your form of communication? Why not another genre?

All the other forms were taken by Republicans. They left us with laughing and weeping. I choose laughing.

Who is the funniest comedian on earth? Why?

Whoever buys material from me. I think Eddie Izzard is brilliant. Andy Rooney kills.

Who is the least funny comedian on earth? Explain their success.

Any comedian who relies on use of the F-word to be funny. That’s right, “Fabio.” Beyond that, I don’t have an attorney, so I don’t want to get sued. Especially if I inherited $500 million. 

If you inherited $500 million dollars tomorrow, what would you do with your life?

The real question is, what would I do with yours?
 
I would first ask my sisters when our parents had died, because they were doing ok when I called home this week. And where did they hide this profound wealth all those years?  
 
I might give it all to Oprah, just to shock her. Put it all in an envelope, and say, “Look under your chair, Oprah!” Then we’d have a great time together over lunch, which neither of us would eat because our comfort waist pants are already stretched out like the steel belts in a radial tire lab test.

$500 million would also afford me the ability to pay my Wisconsin property taxes in 2 easy payments instead of 4. That would be convenient.
 
I would start a hedge fund involving actual hedges, beautifying America one yard at a time.

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I hope you enjoyed the first installment of Funny Dad Week. To learn more about Jeff Sawyer, visit his blog Sawyer Speaks. His book can be found at Amazon.com.

And remember, you are not alone…

Odd Things About Wisconsin

Living in New York my entire life, I grew up believing that the way I referred to things was pretty much the same as how most people referred to things.

Boy was I wrong.

For example, I call a car a car. In Wisconsin, it’s a vehicle. And it’s mostly women that call it that. Every syllable is clearly enunciated, too — making the word resemble the sound made by a cat coughing up a hairball. Why would you want to take the extra time to call something a veh-ic-le, when you can just say “car.” Think of all the time you save sticking with the one syllable here.

I grew up calling Italian bread, Italian bread. In Wisconsin, it’s called a loaf! What the hell is that about? Don’t all breads start out as a “loaf” before you slice them up and make sandwiches and french toast with them? To me, a loaf is someone who doesn’t like to do stuff. Kind of like a bum, or a person with no ambition. But hey, what do I know?

Now, let’s talk about the thing that everybody has on top of their house. I call it a roof. Again, I find an alarming difference, this time in the pronunciation of what appears to be a simple word. In NY, we say roof, like “roooof.” Here in the frozen tundra that is Wisconsin, they say it more like “ruff.” What the heck is a ruff? Sounds like someone’s dog is barking if you ask me (which nobody did by the way).

This brings me to the biggest, worst and most ugly difference of all.

Pizza.

Now here’s the weird thing. In Wisconsin, they say pizza just like I did in New York. But what they call pizza tastes more like the cardboard box that NY pizza comes in! It smells familiar, like cheese and sauce and bread (or a loaf). But that is where the similarity ends.

Why-o-why does the pizza have to suck so bad out here?

There are varieties like pizza with potatoes and veggies on it. Just what America needs. Pizza with an extra starch. We’re not fat enough. Meat-lovers pizza has bacon, sausage, beef, ham and pepperoni. And it’s guaranteed to clog your arteries! And then there’s the mid western classic  Cheeseburger Pizza. Now there’s an image that makes me want to yack! But I’m afraid to because somebody might want to make “Cheeseburger & Yack” pizza!

At least a loaf still tastes like bread, even though they call it the wrong thing. But the pizza? Somebody needs to hold a seminar or something to help them get it right. Big money making opportunity for you pizza makers in NY.

My final quibble concerns the potato. Where I’m from, a potato is part of a meal. A side accessory so to speak – the starch part (remember, it’s not a vegetable). It is usually served with a topping (like butter or sour cream), next to a piece of MEAT and a healthy portion of VEGETABLES (the darker the color, the more healthy).

But here in Wisconsin, the dairy state, a potato is a meal in and of itself.  Top it with enough crap and people go crazy like it’s a four-course dinner! Here, they just lump everything into it – cheese, meat, veggies, a ground up tire from their ve-hi-cle… WHATEVER THEY CAN FIND! And they call it a meal.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Wisconsin. Especially the days when I don’t have to leave the house. But this stuff just bothers me.

And remember, you are not alone…

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