As I write this, the CFI Leadership Conference is just wrapping up. It’s been an incredible weekend, one that I had no idea I would have until about 10 days ago. I wasn’t planning on attending, but Debbie Goddard called me and asked if I would come out. That’s about a 10 hour drive each way, so I wanted to make sure it would be worth the trip. Would I be on a panel, I asked? Do you want me to speak? The answer: “I want you to introduce Jamie Kilstein.” That’s as close to a no-brainer decision as I’ve ever had to make. Done. I’ll be there.
But it gets better. The next day she emails me and says she was finalizing the schedule and there’s about a half hour after dinner on Saturday and before Jamie is scheduled. Might I be interested in doing a little comedy before he went up? Opening for Jamie Kilstein? Go ahead, twist my arm. A little more. Okay, okay, if I have to. Yeah, more like “are you fucking kidding me? And I don’t have to crawl over broken glass, I just have to drive a long way? Sign me up.
And that led to one of the coolest experiences of my life. First of all, I love doing comedy for atheists. They get the jokes. It’s the perfect audience. And my part went beautifully. Rebecca Watson and Desiree Schell (first time I’d met her and she absolutely rocks) were right in the front row and had threatened to throw fruit at me, but I managed to go on despite their attempts to silence me through intimidation.
And then Jamie went on. First, let me say that Jamie is one of the nicest people you could ever meet. Before the show started, we were talking about Doug Stanhope, a good friend of his. We agreed that, at his best, Stanhope was the funniest and bravest comic in the country. That conversation would turn out to be prophetic, as Jamie’s show took a decided turn to the Stanhopian. Let me explain.
Stanhope, in addition to being very, very funny, also imbibes heroic amounts of drugs and alcohol. And Rebecca and Desiree, who had picked Jamie up and taken him to dinner before coming to the show, had been feeding him drinks for a couple hours already. By the time he got on stage, he was drinking straight out of a bottle of Jim Beam. And despite that, he was fucking brilliant. The first 45 minutes were spectacular. And then, it seems, he took an exit on to Share Too Much street.
What followed was even better, even if he lost a bit of the audience at that point. He began to talk very poignantly about his relationship with his mother and father, experiences from his childhood, interrupting himself several times to acknowledge that he shouldn’t be talking about this stuff. The result was an amazing combination of comedy and group therapy that went on for about an hour and a half. It was incredible. I loved every minute of it.
After the show, I told him that I had almost shouted out “Stanhope would be proud” and he replied, “I would have loved that!” Rebecca and Desiree felt terrible for getting him drunk, but they shouldn’t. What poured out of him was absolutely astonishing and it made the whole experience one of the coolest I’ve ever had. He did manage to piss off a few people. In fact, one of them walked up to me afterwards and said, “You were a lot funnier than that fucking asshole.” Sorry, I can’t agree. In a million years, I’ll never be 1/10th as funny as Jamie. He’s a genius.
The rest of the weekend was awesome too. I got to see many people I already knew like Debbie Goddard, Dren Asselmeier and Andrew Tripp. And I got to meet a whole lot of new people who were great — Stef McGraw, Paul Fidalgo, Adam Isaak, Jim Underdown and Alice (I forget her last name) from CFI Los Angeles, Desiree, James Croft and Amanda Knief. I got to be part of the first video edition of Point of Inquiry with Chris Mooney.
Oh, and I finally got to meet Jessica Ahlquist. Amazing young lady. We got a picture taken with me in my Evil Big Thing shirt, so we had the evil big thing and the evil little thing in one place. Also got to meet Damon Fowler. Those young people are doing great things already and I am astonished at their poise and intelligence.
It was a great weekend in every way. So glad I went. And thanks to Debbie for making it all possible.