There’s so many things that you have taught me over the years. I wanted to share the top five with you.
1. Sometimes You Get the Crappy Toy – I remember when I was a toddler I used to bring all my stuffed animals into your room and throw them on the bed. I remember you always let me have the “cool” stuffed animals (looking at you talking monkey) and you’d always take the not so “cool” toys (looking at you Raggedy Ann & Andy). You never complained and always went along with whatever crazy scenario I made up. It’s probably what made improv easier for me. You always said yes and let me be creative.
2. You Gotta Stand Up For What’s Right - I remember when I was 8 years old. We took (my brother) Tim to pick up the newspapers for his paper route. As we waited in the car one of the toughest kids in our grade school showed up. He was 13 going on 30, he had a full on mustache, smoked and I think he was on his second marriage. He was upset that day because one of the other newspaper carrier’s owed him money. So he took that kid’s wagon and began slamming it repeatedly on the ground. This was his payback (he was like a 13 year old Tony Soprano). As we sat in the locked and completely safe automobile, you got out and began YELLING AT HIM. He wasn’t someone you messed with let alone yelled at. Not even the nuns at school messed with him. Before I knew it you had stopped him from slamming the wagon. I remember as you walked away Jerry called you an asshole. Without missing a beat you said, “Have a nice day!” You returned to the car and I thought you were a super hero. You stood up to him and luckily there were no repercussions toward me nor my brother…he knew better.
3. If You Get Knocked Down, Get Back Up Again – You were a social worker in one of the most dangerous schools in Milwaukee. When I was 12 you got mugged twice within about three months, but you always went right back to work. You never blamed anyone. You had a job to do and knew it was more important to help people then to give up. You remind me of the old saying: “Never let the bastards wear you down.”
4. You Gotta Dance – When I went to college I told you I wanted to play college football. You said the only way I could do it was if I took dance lessons at Arthur Murray Dance Studios. I thought it was ridiculous, but I did it. I’m not sure I became a better dancer, but I never miss an opportunity to dance…for better or for worse.
5. Take the Road Less Traveled – When I started in stand up comedy, I got the opportunity of a lifetime…to open for Pauly Shore (trust me that was a big deal in the 90s). I opened for him in front of a crowd of almost a thousand at a rock club in Milwaukee. I got to the stage and after about two minutes was booed mercilessly…right off the stage. I was devastated and lost what little confidence I had. You weren't a big fan of me pursuing comedy, but a few days later you came into my room and handed me a scroll (yes a scroll). In beautiful calligraphy you had written the Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken.” The lines that you really emphasized were:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
At the time my act was pretty weird. I sang a song about a potato for God’s sake. You told me to stick with what I do because I’d be happier in the long run. Two years later I sent a tape to Comedy Central with the aforementioned “Potato Song.” The intern viewing the tape was blown away by the weirdness and commitment I had. Like it or not...you caused my comedy career.
Mom, there’s so many lessons you taught me over the course of my life. Most of all you and Dad taught me to be a good person and for that I will be forever grateful. I love you!