In Defense of Learning

Learning beats ignoranceI was driving an unfamiliar freeway yesterday and took an exit to get some gas.  As I was sitting at the stop light at the top of the exit, a pickup truck pulled up next to me and the driver started shaking his fist and grimacing at me.

I didn’t remember having done anything wrong.  I try to be a conscientious driver.  But I drive thousands and thousands of miles every year.  Bound to make a mistake once in awhile.

As I turned left off the exit, I ended up right next to the same guy at the next stop light.  Normally you’d sit there uncomfortably not glancing at each other.  Instead I rolled down my window and signaled for him to do the same.

I said, “Can I help you with something?”

And he started yelling at me immediately.  “Yeah, you cut me off back there!  I had to slam my brakes and there was a truck behind me!”

I said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize I’d done that.  My apologies.”

He continued yelling.  “You could have killed someone back there!  You cut me right off!”

I smiled at him and said, “I’m very sorry about that.  I’m not from around here and not familiar with that exit.  Didn’t realize I’d done it.”

He paused for a moment, smiled back at me, and said, “Ok then, you have a good day now.”

Defused, just like that.  Because we both learned something.  I learned I’d made a mistake.  He learned that it was a mistake and I wasn’t trying to antagonize him.

I’m not telling you this story to prove what a great guy I am.  Instead, it’s to show that learning and talking can smooth things out.

Proudly Ignorant?

I saw a comment from a lady on Facebook recently that said, “I’m tired of you educated people thinking you know more than everyone else!”

“Knowing more than other people” is exactly the definition of being educated.  And seeing the growing disdain for learning and experts is a scary thing.  The replacement of facts with “feelings” isn’t doing us any good.

That guy in the truck felt like I’d wronged him.  And fortunately he believed my fact that I’d simply made a mistake.  And we could both go on with our day with one less bit of animosity.

Keep in mind, I’m talking about both sides of whatever spectrum here.  Shallow, uneducated people exist in all portions of society, as do deep, thoughtful people.  And when talking about education, I don’t mean a college degree.  I mean people with an array of life experiences who make an effort to actually learn about the world around them.

Subvert The Algorithm

Unfortunately, our consumption of knowledge has been overly focused down to soundbites and 140 character tweets.  All of it funneled into algorithms that only show us more of what we want to see and nothing that we don’t want to see.

Being further distanced from those we don’t agree with isn’t going to help us come to any sort of understanding or compromise.  It’s only segregating us into opposing camps.

So we have to make an effort to go out and learn new things.  Seek the knowledge of others and try to understand their motivations. We’re learning more that Islamic terrorists are created through a combination of poverty, inexperience, and brainwashing by demagogues.  I’d argue that American racists are a product of the same combination.

How many people (on either side) actually tried to learn more about the 2012 Benghazi attack instead of just using it as a slogan?  How many people looked up any of the facts about the Trump University law suit?  And from something other than a source that just agrees with you?

Yes, facts can be manipulated and the victors write the history.  But we have to have something as a baseline to start the discussion.  When we have more viewpoints on a subject we can have more insight to a problem and help keep our media outlets improve their integrity.

Who’s got the time?

I get it, there’s too much out there to keep track of.  We’re all busy trying to scrape together a living wage.  Who’s got time for all this research and learning?

It has to become part of your daily events.  I learn something every day.  It doesn’t have to be earth shattering.  Recently I learned that my kitchen faucet has a small regulator in it that isn’t necessary and was clogged and making my faucet not work right.  Wouldn’t have known that without my helpful plumber stepping in to show me.

But if something filters up and you’re using it to explain something to someone else, you should have an idea of what you’re actually talking about. I heard rants about Benghazi for months before I finally got around to looking it up and reading the details.

The simple bottom line is that you need to learn something new every day.  Not stuffing your brain 24/7.  But try to find something that will give you new knowledge or a different viewpoint each day.  Success is made through knowledge and thoughtfulness.  Ignorance and fear only stunt the growth of the human race.

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The hair has many uses….

A pic from last night’s show at the San Jose Improv with Reylina and Hana.  The hair has many uses….

I liked the opener, so obviously we had to play with his hair @philjohnsoncomedy #biotingoals #improvcomedy

A photo posted by Hana ? Sayles (@iwannahana13) on

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Why Jack Drimmer of Auburn Racquet and Fitness Club is Wrong

This would have been a major step up from the scared, drunk, confused audience Jack Drimmer of Auburn Racquet Club left me with.

This would have been a major step up from the scared, drunk, confused audience Jack Drimmer of Auburn Racquet and Fitness Club left me with.

Geez, do I hate dealing with the drama of people who don’t understand things.  So I’m going to respond fully to this here and be done with it.

I recently did a corporate gig for Jack Drimmer and his company the Auburn Racquet and Fitness Club.

Jack’s review of my performance does not take into account that he lied to his guests, threw me under the bus, and made it nearly impossible for me to put on a good show.

Before the show…

When I booked this show with Jack Drimmer of the Auburn Racquet and Fitness Club and we spoke on the phone about what we needed, he said:

  1. The show doesn’t have to be that clean.
  2.  Let’s get a 2nd comic on the show who’s “interactive”.

“Interactive” means they want crowd work.  All the “what’s your name, where ya from?” kind of improvised comedy.

I said, “Good. Let’s do that because I don’t do a lot of crowd work.”  I brought in Myles Weber who loves doing crowd work and the show would have a lot of variety that way. Prepared material and music from me.  Crowd work and material from Myles.

Pre-Show Lies

We get to the gig and everyone is taking advantage of the open bar.  So they’re overly lubricated by the time the show starts.  Par for the course.  We’re used to that.  Though one guy was passed out at the front table just as I got on stage.  Others around him were jamming straws in his mouth.  You can imagine that was a little distracting.

Just before the show I checked in with Jack one more time on what kind of content he wanted.  PG16 he says.  I said, “Are sex jokes ok?”  And he said, “Yeah, that should be fine.”  I could have done the show without them, but I remembered our earlier conversation where he said the show doesn’t have to be that clean.

BUT, two minutes before I go on stage…and this was never discussed before this… Jack tells me “Everyone kept asking me what the entertainment this year would be.  I told them that you’re a roastmaster and they each have to get up and tell a funny 5-minute story about our members.”

I asked, “Are we actually doing that?”

Jack says, “Oh no. I just wanted to mess with them.  Just go into your act and pretend like you’re going to do it, then never do it.”

Now, I’m all for trying to appease a client if they have a request, but this is a recipe for disaster at a comedy show.  Let’s look at why:

  1. Most people are scared to death to get on a stage and talk.  And he’s handing me an audience that thinks they’re going to have to do that and I’m the guy that’s “making them”.
  2. I’m not a roastmaster.  I’ve never been a roastmaster or marketed myself that way.  I don’t even like roast jokes.
  3. Not only are they scared I’m going to call them on stage, they’re confused when I don’t and just start into my standup act.  Surprise standup never ever ever works.  Standup requires a focused audience that knows what they’re going to get.  It’s why there’s no such thing as “background comedy”.

So I step backstage to tell Myles what’s happening.  He says, “Dude, you’re screwed,” because he knows how difficult my next 40 minutes are going to be.

The Show(down)

Jack gets on stage to introduce me to his Auburn Racquet and Fitness Club employees as a “professional roastmaster” (which I’m not) and reminds them that they’ll all have to get on stage to tell a funny story (which they don’t sound the least bit excited about) and then brings me up.

Not to mention the audience was talking over him, wasn’t quieted, and was still talking when I got on stage and I had to quiet them before I could even start.

Before I’m a minute in people are walking off.  Why?  Because they don’t want to get on stage and talk. And they don’t understand what the guy on stage is doing right now.

Now those people who have wandered off are back at the bar talking very loudly (including Jack), making my job even harder because now I have to talk over the loud chatter at the bar, convince the remaining audience that I’m not actually going to pull them on stage, and reset their heads for a standup show.

Let me reiterate this… Lying to your guests about what the show will be and surprising them with standup DOES NOT WORK.

So I’m trying to tell jokes over the noise and play to the scattered but pretty attentive audience left in front of me.  As they started to figure out what was going on they enjoyed my material.

No doubt I could have had a better set.  And I’ll be the first to admit that.  But given the circumstances, I was muddling through the best I could and giving them whatever laughs I found possible.

As for his claim that I was too dirty, he told me sex jokes were ok.  And mine certainly aren’t graphic.  In fact you can see the exact material I did here, here, and here.  Not even a single swear word. And that was a total of about 8 minutes of my 40 minute show.  The rest was absolutely clean material.

I did about 40 minutes on stage.  The people that were paying attention enjoyed it a lot and told me so afterward.  Jack wouldn’t know if I was funny or not because he was back at the bar drinking and talking loud like the rest of the disrespectful drunks.

I brought Myles up and he jumped right into crowd work.  Even then it took him a good 5-7 minutes to get them on board.  And that was after I’d already helped them figure out that this was a standup show and not some weird roast their boss had lied to them about.

And they enjoyed the crowd work.  Great.  I told Jack ahead of time that I don’t do crowd work.  My demo videos don’t show crowd work.  Once we had Myles on board it didn’t sound like he needed crowd work from me.

The 2 Faces of Jack Drimmer of Auburn Racquet and Fitness Club – Post Show

When the show ended Jack shook my hand and said thank you.  He did not address any of his concerns.  I walked out of the venue with him at the end of the night discussing the week of traveling we’d each just done.  I said, “I hope everyone had a good time.”  He said, “Yes, I think they did.”  I wasn’t about to bring up problems if he thought it went ok.

I then reminded him that I needed a check for the rest of the performance fee from him as stated in our contract.  He claimed he’d already paid it through GigMasters two weeks prior (which he hadn’t).  I said I’d double check that and he said he’d send payment during the week if it wasn’t there.  Fortunately he did pay me two days later.  But still two days later than stated in our contract.

A professional adult would have discussed these concerns with me after the event instead of just thanking me and telling me everyone had a good time.  I could have explained to him that lying to his guests probably wasn’t a good idea and that I would have told him so had he discussed it with me beforehand.

Instead he blasted me with a terrible review on GigMasters.  And now you know what really happened.  Jack Drimmer of the Auburn Racquet and Fitness Club lied to his employees, threw me under the bus, and then blamed me for the show not going well.

How about a recap?

– Material was too dirty? – I checked twice to make sure of what I could do and stayed within those parameters.
– Phil wasn’t funny? – No comedian is funny when faced with a scared and confused audience.  Phil also tours the country as a professional comic and probably wouldn’t be allowed to if he weren’t funny.
– Half of the guests left? – Yes, because their boss told them they were going to have to get on stage and tell a story.

But I learned that I have to educate each of my private gig clients about how to put on a show correctly.  So water under the bridge and now I know better.

And if you’re a client of Auburn Racquet and Fitness Club, now you know what kind of person is running your gym.

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My People Do Good Art Things!

Giant Steamin' Pile O'Art!

About a month ago I posted the story of a jackass who doesn’t understand what goes into the business of being an artist.  Knowing that many of the good folks that follow my work are also great artists of their own, I put out the call for stuff they’ve done.  And as you’ll see below, I got some really great music, painting, films, writing, and more.


Here’s the thing I want you to get out of this:

  • Creativity exists in lots of forms.  It doesn’t have to be the traditional art forms.  It could be a great painting or the ingenious way you duct taped the lock on your bedroom door so the kids can’t bust in on you.
  • Creating is hard. Putting that creation out in the world is hard.  Trying to get people to experience your creation is hard.
  • If you don’t like someone’s creation… Shut the hell up unless you have something useful and helpful to say.

I won’t be commenting on any of this either way.  It’s not my place to.  There’s lots of good stuff here if you’re the right audience for it.

That being said… May I present to you… The Art.

The creation I’m currently working on is the Godly Acres web series, but we don’t start filming until next month, so I don’t have any clips from it yet (so far I just have a trailer I made with the theme song and a video I made for the Indiegogo campaign). I’ll send the book that the web series is based on instead because I’m pretty sure you’re going to want to share something with the term “goat herpes” in the title.

Video of me playing my NS/Stick that I made for myself in 2012 at my day
gig, Luthier at Stick Enterprises, Inc.

John Mueller (on piano)
This was recorded at my 70th birthday party.  The singer is Heather Redland.  The tenor is Bob Irania who still plays around town and I’m the pianist, of course.  (We’re using Band in a Box for bass and drums.) 

Adam Ellis

Joey Lillico
What I create is simply a smile on the face of anyone who is down. It can’t be put online for something anyone can see. It creates a happier memory after a bad one simply by being the talking and yes even making myself look like a fool at times. And I don’t want or need any kind of recognition for it either. I do it cause I don’t like to see people sad or down in any way. Other than that I’m not a creator of any kind but I will never comment in negative ways cause I know the struggle through others that do create.


Mike StinnettOn Etsy
rom Vince Hamilton: I am a stay at home gamer, tee hee. So I would like to enter a family members website in my stead.



Tracey RolandelliTracey on Twitter
OK, here ya go! Have a nude. 🙂


Scott SullivanYouTube Channel
Me and my friend make films together, since we’re currently in the middle of a pilot and a feature film, this is probably the best thing we’ve done.

Writer, musician, producer.  A short fiction told in six flash fiction chapters…With music.
Check it out here.


Jeff Redlick – YouTube Channel
I’m just wrapping up a 39 minute documentary short , “Kidnapped By The Mob”.  This one is going to entered in some film festivals .

Doug Hoffman aka

My emcee name is Boxguts, or Guts for short.  I do my own artwork, and write all of my own lyrics.  I’ve dabbled a bit in beat-making, but do not rhyme over my own beats.  I do however have an excellent  team of producers who I work with that create and give me original and exclusive beats that I record on.

When I’m not making music, I’m usually drawing or painting.

Matthew CookYouTube Channel
Pianist, songwriter, and he built that deck below himself too.  But he said he won’t be building them for anyone else.

I did some roast material on 209-area comedians who were with me on this show. It was a good night.

My creative work?  Hmmmmmmmm … well, i used to be something of an indie songwriter & musician. Here’s one example of what i was able to produce:


I am a refrigeration specialist, in this part of my life, and I service domestic,and commercial wine cellars. At an art fair 2 years ago, I came across one of these bottles. I bought it.

It sat on my counter,and every day,I looked at it; a snack tray, a spoon rest…

But then, I began to see its value as a “Business Card”! A visual pun = wine warm enough to melt a bottle I went to the art fair the next year (Art on the Fox)looking for that lady, to commission her to make them for me.  Alas, she was not there.

But the desire persisted, so much so that I researched the technique,and equipment. I bought in.  I have learned to make the bottles as a business card, and my customers LOVE them.

But,of course,like you, I’m not satisfied just hitting grade one, and so I began to become an artisan.  I’ve learned to take dissimilar bottles and fuse them. Trial and error. The different densities,and glasses, require different curing regimens, and techniques.

Also, it’s suitable for snacks…so, it’ll keep his nuts off the bar,,(see what I did there?)

But, now you know. That is a brown,and green,pair of wine bottles fused,and capable of gracing a dining table with crackers and cheeses, to go with the wines.  Art.

So, there ya go.  People doing good stuff in the name of “because”.  I think I got everyone’s stuff in that was sent.  But if I missed yours, let me know and I’ll add it.

If your art is included here, share this post with your friends to spread the wealth.  And if your stuff isn’t in this post, share it with your friends anyway.  Those that took the time to send their stuff to me and put their art in the world deserve a little more attention on it.

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F&%K You For Advertising

unveilingEvery so often I get a nasty comment on my YouTube videos.  I’m lucky they don’t turn into the cesspool of racism and homophobia that many YouTube comment threads do.  But when one turns up, I just delete it.

Oh yeah, I delete it them with relish.  And sometimes mustard.  If someone has a legit critique or comment I’m happy to leave it up for discussion.  But I’ve yet to see an intelligent discussion of anything in the comments section… of just about anything.  Ever.

One of those nasty comments from my videos popped into my head yesterday.  It simply read…

“Fuck you for advertising.”  

So much ignorance in that statement.

First off, yes, I do promote my work.  Shocked?  This person apparently was.  They seem to subscribe to the idea of “just put it out and someone will find it.”  And if I wanted to wait 1000 years to be successful, that’s exactly what I’d do.  Promoting is half the job of being a creator.  And any successful creator will tell you the same.

Second, this person obviously doesn’t know the difference between advertising and promoting. I had not paid for an ad on his sidebar.  I’d simply seen his positive comment on an artist similar to me and sent him a polite and friendly message saying that he might enjoy my video as well.

But what this really showed me is that I was dealing with a person who’s never created anything.  That’s not even the statement of someone who’s created and hasn’t shown it to anyone.  That’s a person who’s never had the guts to face down and conquer the proverbial blank canvas.

Because anyone that has actually created something knows the perseverance it takes to finish it.  And they know the stomach drop of putting it out into the world and hoping it finds an audience.


That’s the last time you get to be proud of that particular creation. Photo by Todd Morris.

“Fuck you for advertising” doesn’t even sound like a bitter, formerly creative person.  It sounds like someone who’s never created anything that wasn’t brown and floating in a toilet.

But you… yes, you… are probably not that type of person.  I’ll bet you HAVE created something worthwhile.  And I want to see it.  And I want everyone I know to see it.

So here’s what we’re going to do.  I want you to show me what you’ve created.  Writing, painting, stand-up, music, video, sculpture, jewelry, custom auto paint jobs, kitchen remodels, whatever.

Send me a link to check out your creation that you’re really excited about.  Then I’m going to do a big blog post featuring all the cool stuff I’ve been sent and promote it out to my networks and mailing list.  I will not be criticizing or reviewing.  That’s for the end user to decide.

Here’s what to send:
Your name
A link to your creation (just one please)
A link where you’d like people to find out more about you and your work

Email your info to Phil at before June 30th, 2016.

This will be fun!  I’ve shown you mine, now show me yours.  😉

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