Michael Cella



**This article first appeared in print on pages 12 – 13 of Submerge Magazine (Feb. 13 – 27, 2019)**

Julie Okahara lives in her own world. The phrase “neither here nor there” often refers to something of little consequence, but in Okahara’s case, it’s the best way of describing who she is and what she does.

Raised in Osaka, Japan, Okahara always had a notebook on her, doodling into it and copying comic book characters. She attended a high school that specialized in graphic design, which, though she enjoyed it, didn’t offer her enough freedom to express herself.

“It was creative, but within rules,” says Okahara. “I don’t like rules.”

Okahara was looking to add another dimension to her life and her art. Eager to travel and see the world, and with the benefit of having taken English classes in high school, she moved to the United States in 2005. She spent some time on the East Coast in the New York City area, visited family friends in Chicago and Michigan, and then settled out west, where she enrolled in an art program at Sierra College in Rocklin, California.

At Sierra, Julie took classes in many different art forms—more graphic design, canvas art and sculpting. In sculpting class, she formed a relationship with Johnny (now her husband of 10 years), as well as a clearer picture of what she wanted to do with her art.

“I really liked sculpting, but I just didn’t have anywhere with enough room to do it in,” explains Okahara. “That’s why I started trying to do 3D stuff on canvas.”

Okahara started using fabrics on her canvas—“puff stuff,” as she calls it—as well as textured or colored paper cutouts, on top of either acrylic painting or watercolor and ink.

“I like creating positive and negative space on two-dimensional surfaces,” says Okahara.

After graduating from Sierra with an associate degree and moving in with her husband, she began operating out of the front room of their Rocklin condo. Though she’s now spent roughly half her life in Japan and half in California, neither place defines her art, but both inspire it. Perhaps as a result, that leaves Okahara’s art somewhat in between worlds.

“I can’t really explain my style,” she says. “I show at comic book shops, but I’m not a comic artist. I go to conventions, but I’m not a convention artist. I’ve shown at galleries, but I don’t do ‘high-end’ art. I just need to find my …” she trails off, as if even this can’t be defined.

It hasn’t stopped Okahara from carving a niche of her own. Though active in the Sacramento scene, she’s not a part of any art collective or collaboration. Instead, she’s found a community online, often streaming her works-in-progress for friends and followers on Twitch, or posting temporary snippets via Instagram stories.

In the same way, her work tends to be playful and interactive. Though she’ll often listen to music or talk radio while she’s painting, humor is one of Okahara’s biggest influences.

“Growing up in Osaka, there was a very big comedy scene,” says Okahara.

Moving to the United States introduced her to traditional stand-up, and that direct relationship with the audience continues to be a huge motivating factor for her.

“That’s why I like having little galleries or receptions for my art,” says Okahara. “I’m really shy, but I like talking to people, listening to what they say about my piece. I enjoy listening to their thoughts or feelings on what I’m painting.”

For Okahara, that feedback might supply the only narrative she needs in her work.

“I do sometimes have my own story and paint it, but it usually comes after I have the idea,” she says. “I’m making it up as I paint. I want other people to do the same when they see my piece. If they have their own story, it’s awesome. That means it speaks to them.”

Okahara’s career, like her art, has not yet been completely defined.

“I am a full-time artist, but not quite at the point I can support myself,” she says.

For now, she has partitioned her front room studio into separate areas for streaming, for making art, and for printing, as her work has expanded to making buttons, pins and stickers. Her state-of-the-art printer, a recent addition, allows Okahara to oversee her creation operations from beginning to end.

“I don’t like manufacturing because I like to see the product before it gets mass produced,” she says. “It’s a learning process, but I like the control. I can see it and I know it’s coming out good.”

Okahara uses her newest toy, a tablet, to make custom avatars and emoji sets on commission, a return to her roots in design.

Keeping virtually her entire artistic arsenal contained in-house presents challenges of its own.

“Our living room is basically a factory,” her husband Johnny jokes. “We don’t have people over. We’ve moved our TV to the bedroom.”

But this suits them both just fine. In addition to graphic design, Johnny also builds with LEGO, and the setup allows them to bounce ideas off each other.

“We both know how we work and what we are capable of,” says Okahara. “So when I need his help for a project, he gets what I want from him without me explaining everything.”

That makes hiding things almost impossible.

“The challenge is, he can see through my unsureness if I have one in my art,” she admits. “I can’t fake him!”

Fortunately, there is little fake in Okahara’s art. Her subjects reflect the authenticity of everyday life—food, animals, insects and people make up much of her work, which tends to resonate with the most genuine among us.

“Kids really like my stuff,” she says. “It has bright colors, and you can touch it.”

While her style, influences and career status resist labeling, Okahara’s originality means she’s rarely short on inspiration.

“My favorite piece is the next piece I’m making,” says Okahara. “Always, always.”


**This piece first appeared in print on pages 18 – 19 of Submerge Magazine (Jan. 2 – 16, 2019)**

Peanut butter and jelly. Cigarettes and coffee. Middle-aged white people and the Nextdoor app. All natural and organic pairings that complement each other nicely. The only other element necessary was the imagination to put them together.

But cannabis and yoga? It might sound like a stretch. I tried it on my own once, back before yoga was legal. Took a hit, grabbed my mat and walked in on a class. I thought I would have some sort of epiphany or moment of enlightenment, but the problem was I’m not particularly good at either one—I’m a lightweight in weed and a heavyweight in yoga, the opposite of ideal. One time I smoked some weed and thought I was seeing double, but then I realized I was so high I had put both my contacts in the same eye. So when I attempted to do both at the same time, I just ended up spending a lot of time doing exercises in the wrong direction, trying to avoid the instructor’s glare that said, “Weird flex, but OK.”

When I first heard about Syoga, a “cannabis-enhanced” yoga class at Hot Pot Studios, I was apprehensive. For anyone prone to social anxiety, it sounded like the scariest possible combination—getting stoned in front of people, and exercising in front of people. But when everyone is doing it, the fears just kind of … cancel each other out. Turns out it’s hard to be embarrassed when you’re already embarrassed! There are breaks, and snacks, and everyone is on the floor. Your brain isn’t super sharp. It’s like kindergarten in a lot of ways. The smell of herb even helps mask any yoga-related odors that might emerge.

But make no mistake, this is a legit yoga class. We did all the moves I knew, and several I didn’t. We did a grueling ab workout. We did deep stretches. By the end I was sweaty, sore and very stoned. When the class concluded, I laid in Shavasana, my mind and body completely relaxed. I had achieved the feeling I was searching for some years ago. I was Warrior One with the universe.

It turns out for any proper spiritual journey, you need a great guide. That’s where Syoga sensei Katy Karns comes in. It is Karns’ particular warmth, knowledge and insight that drive Syoga, all of which she developed along her own journey.

Though Syoga has been around for fewer than six months, the idea has been brewing in Karns’ brain since she started practicing yoga seven years ago. “Yoga is how I changed my body. I was very unhealthy,” Karns admits.

Getting started was the most difficult part.

“Yoga is hard. It’s so much self-discipline,” Karns says.

Since her first ever smoke sesh with high school friends at 16, Karns discovered she could use marijuana to combat her negative thoughts.

“I realized I don’t have to feel the way I feel all the time,” she recollects.

Karns used this as a tool to get over the hump her first time doing yoga.

“The only way I could get started was to be a little high,” she says. “I would just smoke in my car and walk into this room. And I felt judged about it. But so many people were doing the same thing.”

Soon after building up a healthy yoga habit, she had shed 60 pounds, and even grown an inch due to improved posture. Her interest in the body grew as well, and Karns decided to get her certificate in neuromuscular therapy.

“So I could legally tell people to stretch,” Karns jokes.

Neuromuscular therapy took its toll on her body, however. At one point she was too injured to do any more body work for others.

“That’s when I quit my job, moved into a bus and started doing yoga all the time,” Karns explains.

Through yoga, she was able to heal her body and also gained the confidence to teach yoga on her own. She taught a couple of yoga classes (“non-high classes”) privately, and then got her Ganja yoga certificate from Dee Dussault, author of the aptly named Ganja Yoga. From there, she began formulating a plan to bring her idea to reality.

When Hot Pot Studios first gave her the green light for Syoga, Karns was extremely nervous. Fortunately, her various skills and life experiences aided her in the endeavor.

“I’m using everything I got to do this,” she says, and that covers quite a bit of ground. Karns also has her own photography side-business, performs burlesque and does stand-up comedy—in addition to her day job as an event coordinator. She’s been able to draw on each of these in one way or another—photography for doing her own marketing, burlesque for building body positivity, stand up for confidence in leading the class.

“And I really fucking like it,” Karns says of Syoga. “It’s so much fun.”

But not everything has been easy. Cannabis may be legal, but regulations around marijuana-related business can get sticky.

“No one wants to be the first people to test the boundaries with legal status,” explains Karns. “We can sell it and consume it, but only at our house. No lounges or events.”

Besides public consumption laws, companies like Google and Facebook make it tricky to advertise on their platforms. Even the name “Syoga”—a shortening of “stoned yoga”—is intended to be inconspicuous. Municipalities continue to act as gatekeepers at the local level. While West Hollywood is set to open cannabis cafes and lounges as soon as 2019, it remains to be seen if other cities will follow suit. The tide is turning, but time means money.

Here in Sacramento, Karns aims to create a culture of collaboration and community around cannabis yoga classes.

“I don’t want to be the only one doing this,” she maintains.

With others help, Karns wants to dismantle the stoner stereotype and replace it with a healthier and more accurate one.

“We’re responsible people who want to have awareness in our body,” she says. “We’re not just these people who want to get fucked up all the time. We’re not lazy. There are so many professional stoners out there.”

In the meantime, Karns’ next step is taking Syoga to tech companies, and on the road to states with friendlier legislation, like Colorado. She also hopes to package her yoga and therapy skills together to create wellness retreats which are financially accessible to the people who need them most.

“A lot of the pain and suffering and chronic issues are not with the people making all the money and getting all the massages,” Karns says. “It’s with the people who are making your tacos, and cutting your hair, and giving the massages. We take advantage of these people.”

Karns believes greater accessibility will lead to greater acceptance of cannabis-enhanced yoga as a concept, and a healthier view of cannabis itself.

“It can be addicting and overused. It’s not a cure-all. It’s a tool,” says Karns. “I just like having an altered, positive sense of life, because I’m a very negative person. That’s why I needed yoga, and that’s why I needed meditation, and that’s why I’m trying to teach it to people in the way that I learned it, which is getting a little high.”


**This piece first appeared in print on pages 18 – 19 of Submerge Magazine issue #279 (Nov. 21 – Dec. 5, 2018)**

Everyone who knows Dejan Tyler knows two things about him: the dude loves comedy, and the dude loves food. The self-proclaimed “Underground Soup King,” Tyler is the host of the YouTube show Deez Eats, curator of the world’s most delicious Instagram and connoisseur of every restaurant within a 100-mile radius of the 916. Name a barbecue joint you stopped by once wandering three miles off the freeway looking for cheap gas in Dixon, and he will tell you what to get and what day of the week they make pozole.

So as Tyler left my house Sunday afternoon after a few hours talking and sharing a box of tissues (for the smoke, not the tears), I realized I’d forgotten to ask him the only question I had actually prepared. If he could only pick one, which would it be? Food? Or comedy?

“Comedy,” Tyler answers without missing a beat. “But I would probably just talk about how much I miss food.”

Much less clear to Tyler was how long he’d actually been doing comedy, but ultimately he remembered his mnemonic device for this question. “I know my career and my son are the same age … So yeah, 13 years,” he said in a voice that made me think his son could be anywhere from 10 to 23.

Thirteen years is a long time even in comedy, where careers seem to age in dog years, and Tyler is just now coming off the release of his first album, Get Rich or Diabetes.

“I’m a procrastinator,” Tyler explains.

It was a roundabout road just getting there, sometimes literally. Last year, Tyler entered the World Series of Comedy, a national comedy competition with satellites all around the country. Tyler’s first qualifying round was at Laughs Unlimited in Old Sacramento. On the way to the show, he got in a car accident. Another driver had cut him off and smashed into his car.

“She didn’t speak English, but I didn’t have insurance,” Tyler remembers.

The situation was not going to be solved anytime soon, making him late for the competition. Worse, the judges’ criteria included professionalism, so Tyler was being docked for every minute he was late.

“When I finally got there, Joe Lowers [the WSOC executive producer] said, ‘I was gonna tell you to not even perform at all, because you lost so many points already.’”

Tyler won first place that night, but with the deductions he barely squeaked through to the next round. Over the next two weeks he eventually made it to the final round in Las Vegas, where he took second overall.

After the show, one of the judges, David Drozen, approached him. Drozen, a long time comedy producer, had produced albums for hundred of comics, including Richard Pryor, for which he won a Grammy. Now the CEO of Uproar Entertainment, Drozen asked Tyler if he would release an album on his label.

Tyler credits his humorous heritage to his grandmother.

“My grandmother was hilarious,” he says. “She killed me. That’s where I get it from. She was a riot.”

Tyler’s grandmother had an old school stereo/cassette player, on which he remembers listening to records like Richard Jeni’s Platypus Man and Robin Harris’ Bébé’s Kids.

“I would sit in front of the speaker and just listen to it over and over and over,” Tyler says of Bébé’s Kids. “I was like, I never heard nothing like this.’ The first time I heard it I was in tears. I couldn’t breathe.”

In school, Tyler’s quick wit got him into trouble just as much as it got him out of it. Tyler’s family had moved from Inglewood to East Palo Alto just after he was born.

“In the ‘80s when crack was poppin’ off, East Palo Alto was wild,” says Tyler. “I had a smart mouth. I would talk myself into shit, and fight my way out of it.

“This one kid, Raymond, had this crazy-ass buckwheat hair, and one day these girls were talking about him and said, ‘He’s so ugly he’s cute,’” he continues. “I’m like, ‘Nah, he just ugly.’ But I didn’t expect everyone to laugh that hard. And he was little and always had a runny nose, but was crazy in the face. He looked feral. This kid jumped on me, and I felt like he was in my clothes. He’s in my shirt biting and scratching. I didn’t know those were his cousins that were talking about him. I should have stayed out of it. But I just called Crazy Ray ‘ugly.’ And then I had to fight him every day. We fought at school. We fought on the bus. Other kids would tell him where I was.”

Tyler survived his experience with Raymond to go on to play in marching band and orchestra in high school, as well as play football for the South Sacramento Vikings. But even before they became his living, words were always his primary weapon.

“I didn’t always wanna do stand-up, I just like entertaining people,” Tyler says. “I tell good stories. My base skill is communication, not necessarily comedy.”

When he finally tried stand-up comedy for the first time, he was ready.

“My first time, I murdered it, because I didn’t know any better,” he says.

Now, he’s embraced the 13-year (probably) struggle to find his audience after that day in 2005, and the perils of being seen as a comic’s comic, a distinction that can be both a blessing and a curse.

“More comics are digging my work than audience members sometimes,” Tyler says. “But the amount of exposure I’ve gotten being a procrastinator is probably the amount I deserve.”

Tyler knows taking the next step requires leaving Sacramento and his job in property management, which he says is tough because it’s both comfortable, and a great source of material.

“I’m in it for the experience,” Tyler says. “Shit’s crazy. It’s a lot of women. Being a young, black dude in that field, I know why I’m there. I’m always at the hood property, because they’re scared. I’m like, ‘It’s just drunkass Tony, man, chill out!’”

But the album and its reception in the last few weeks have served as huge inspiration for Tyler. He recorded it over five shows at Laugh Unlimited, which Tyler considers his home club, and it was his first headlining weekend there.

“I really felt like this was a culmination of my journey in comedy thus far,” says Tyler, and it’s left him feeling like there’s a lot more he wants to say to the world.

“I’m a lot more motivated right now. I really see it,” he says. “You ever see The Last Dragon, at the end, where they dunk him in the water and go, ‘Who’s the master?’ I’m like, you know what? I’m the master, motherfucker.”

Dejan Tyler’s album, Get Rich or Diabetes, is out now on Uproar Entertainment. To give it a listen or to get yourself a copy, go to Uproarcomedycd.com. You can see Tyler live at Punch Line (2100 Arden Way, Sacramento) on Sunday, Dec. 2 with Zach Edlow, presented by Homegrown Comedy. For more info, go to Punchlinesac.com.


**This piece first appeared in print on page 11 of Submerge Magazine issue #272 (Aug. 15 – 29, 2018)**

Pearl Milk Tea originated in Taiwan in the 1980s and soon spread like wildfire throughout the world, probably because it’s just so damn delightful. You may know this beverage as bubble tea, or boba, which features balls of tapioca with a texture like that first chew of bubble gum, but with the lasting flavor of whatever milk tea they’re swimming in. That’s up to you. Everything is up to you! The milk. The tea. If you want to shake things up, you could also add grass jelly—little ribbons of joy, like gummy worms that don’t stick to your teeth. You should probably stop there, but you could also try adding red beans, mochi, aloe or whatever you’re in the mood to suck through a fat straw.

When I spent a month in Taiwan, there was a boba stand on seemingly every street corner, sometimes right next to or across the street from each other like Starbucks in the United States. Starbucks—or any coffee—was difficult to find.

Boba might have won the turf war in Taiwan, but here in the United States, it’s still a struggle. Google “Sacramento boba,” and you’ll only return about a dozen results. Google “Sacramento Starbucks” and a little animated paperclip will pop up and say, “It looks like you’re writing a blog. Just go outside and look around.”

Ask the owner of Nubo and Moo Moo, a mom-and-pop boba shop/Vietnamese restaurant that was recently forced out of their Elk Grove home by their unfriendly neighbors, Starbucks. An exclusivity clause in Starbucks’ lease with Calvine Crossings, the shopping center Nubo and Starbucks shared, specified that no nearby stores could sell coffee or tea in to-go cups.

Andy Ha, Nubo and Moo Moo’s proprietor, found it increasingly difficult to do business after that, losing more than 40 percent of his revenue. He retained a lawyer, but the coffee chain held firm behind its legal standing, despite the fact that Starbucks does not even serve bubble tea.

Forced to capitulate, Ha packed his boba and left.

Nubo and Moo Moo now sits tucked away in a little strip mall off of Folsom Boulevard in East Sacramento. Directly across from them, their new neighbors, Jamba Juice, have so far found the arrangement of selling different kinds of drinks in the same area to be copacetic.

There is a sign for Nubo, and a sign for Moo Moo, depending on which side of the corner you find yourself on. But there’s just one roof, and one counter to order from, no matter which sign you walked in under. There’s wide open seating and board games to play if you get bored waiting on your food.

The Nubo menu offers simple Vietnamese dishes like noodles, the kind of bowl you could see President Obama and Anthony Bourdain sitting down to had they filmed an episode of Parts Unknown in Sacramento.

I ate with our photographer, who despite never having been president was still solid company. Nine to 12 bucks gets you a serving of food in a box, by far my favorite container to eat out of. Choose between vermicelli noodles or rice, and then between shrimp, beef, chicken, pork or vegetarian, and then between fork, chopsticks or eating with your hands. Plus a side salad. If you’re dining alone, go with the garlic noodles, offered with the same options.

After learning they were out of shrimp, I opted for the vermicelli noodles and pork, but then I tried to trick them by ordering the shrimp spring rolls as an appetizer. No luck. They were still out of shrimp, but they gave us vegetarian spring rolls at a discount, my favorite kind of pricing. All in all, a healthy, quick meal option for $10 is always a winner.

But I was still hungry, so I put on my mustache-and-glasses disguise and headed back to the same counter for dessert, where the mile-long Moo Moo menu gave me a chance to digest while I pondered their many options. They offer a dozen or so yogurt-based “Signature Drinks,” slushies, ice cream, mocha, iced tea and coffee (suck it, Starbucks!), but I was there for that sweet, sweet boba. You can choose between powdered milk tea or fresh, an option that not every boba joint offers, plus they give you the choice to go with or without sweetener—also not as prevalent a choice as it should be. I went with the dark roasted oolong milk tea (gimme that caffeine, baby!), pointed two fingers randomly at the myriad mix-in list and landed on grass jelly and bursting boba. The choose-your-own-adventure-style dessert sent me to a new page where there were a full five flavors of bursting boba. I went with lychee and resolved that it would be my last decision of the day.

Oh, and the best part of all? No “grande.” No “venti.” Just say you want a damn large, and walk away holding a big-ass cup. It’s your world now.


**This piece first appeared in print on pages 18 – 19 of Submerge Magazine issue #272 (Aug. 15 – 29, 2018)**

Bill Burr will tell you, he is a comic first and foremost, though you might know him in any number of ways. Throughout more than a quarter-century in comedy, he’s been the white guy on Chappelle’s Show sketches, a frequent Opie and Anthony guest, the creator and voice of Frank Murphy on the Netflix original F is For Family, and one of Saul Goodman’s henchmen on Breaking Bad. You may have seen him on the couch out-gingering Conan ranting on the controversial topic of the year, using the classic Burr setup: posturing from an ignorant viewpoint, then going off on a tangent until it dawns on you that he’s actually considered all sides, and taken the funniest angle.

This is a hallmark of Burr’s stand-up as well. He’s recorded six stand-up specials, four of which can be seen on Netflix—2012’s You People Are All the Same was among the initial crop of comedy Netflix had to offer. Burr has gradually ventured further into social commentary while maintaining his status as one of the most respected comics working today. He’ll admit, he doesn’t actually write jokes. His comedy consists of a unique balancing act he achieves by taking crowds to the edge of their comfort zone on an issue, and his “I’m an idiot, what do I know?” attitude keeps them from completely jumping ship. The “oh wait, he’s not an idiot” moment finally comes after you catch your breath from being battered by punchlines and brilliant act-outs.

I discovered Bill Burr in 2006, when in a now-famous rant directed at a hostile Philadelphia crowd, Burr relentlessly attacked every aspect of the city, punctuating his insults by shouting out exactly how many minutes he had left in his set. By the end of his 12 minutes he’d earned their respect in the most Philly way possible—by roasting the shit out of them. YouTube was barely a year old, and the video quickly went viral. Having grown up in the Philly area, I became a fan the minute I saw it.

Ever since, Bill Burr has been a part of my life every week as the host of The Monday Morning Podcast, which has consisted of Burr alone rambling into a mic about literally anything since 2007. Having had a one-sided conversation with someone for more than a decade, it was an odd feeling when my podcast called me on a Tuesday morning. I was mostly just hoping I’d remember to talk. Here and there, I did, and our conversation ended up feeling like an episode of The Monday Morning Podcast that I got to direct.

Let me get this recorder on. 
Most people just write down what they wanted me to say anyway.

You’re heading into the third season of F is for Family. How many seasons do you see it going?
I don’t know. Somewhere between five and eight?

When does the show go beyond your personal life stories?
That happened on the first episode. There’s little vignettes and shit and even then a lot of them are changed [from my life]. I didn’t want my relatives to watch the show and be mortified. I’m not trying to say that anybody I grew up with was a bad person, it was just different. It’s a funny time compared to the way we live now. Some of the stuff back then was good, some if it was bad. Even take Frank Murphy [F is for Family’s patriarchal character], there are aspects of my dad, there’s certain words and the way I pronounce them. “I’ll put you through the fuckin wall”—that was definitely my dad, but you know, he didn’t work at the airport, he didn’t knock up my mom and have to get married; all of that shit is just as you’re building it you gotta have conflict and all that. Plus it’s some of [series co-creator] Mike Price’s dad, Dave Richardson, Emily Towers, all these people that write on the show.

Will the kids eventually grow up? 
We talked about having the kids age. Each season is basically a semester of their school and summer vacation. So in three seasons you see a year of their life. That way they’re not aging faster than people are. But that gets difficult, because at some point Bill’s gonna hit puberty, his voice has to drop. I don’t know … I feel like if we’re gonna go that real with it it’s fucking impossible. And I wouldn’t do the show if Haley Reinhart wasn’t doing Bill’s voice so yeah—five to eight seasons.

Does writing the show take jokes away from your stand-up act?
No, not at all, because there’s episode arc and the season arc that you’re writing toward and then there’s all these characters that do and say things that I wouldn’t do. My act is more kinda like my philosophy, observations, whatever you wanna call it. There’s 10 people in the writers’ room so it’s not like I have to do the heavy lifting on the jokes. If I get a line in once every couple of pages I’m doing good.

Would you ever direct an episode?
I don’t know. I would just be so afraid the whole time I’m spending all that money and all that time directing something while my road money is going away, and I’d be forgetting who I was. I just feel like I can never go away from stand-up. You gotta be on like Chappelle’s or Chris Rock’s level or Seinfeld—those are like the legends. It’s like the Rolling Stones. The Rolling Stones could not tour for a couple years and be like [British accent] “Yeah, right, we’re gonna pick up where we left off,” and they go right back to stadiums because they have that body of work. You know all of those guys have at least 10, 20 years experience on me so I just don’t think I’d have the time. But it’s definitely something that does fascinate me.

How does playing theaters and casinos now as opposed to clubs change the dynamic of your album?
I’m a total phony. I don’t interact with other humans anymore [laughing]. No, it’s just subconscious at this point because I’ve been doing it so long, I’m just listening to where the crowd is at, pushing it to the furthest level that’s gonna make them come back. I can’t describe to you what that is, but I know what it sounds like. And when I get off stage, if I don’t feel like I was in that pocket, I definitely sit down and try to think of what I did or didn’t do to create that. That’s what I do, I don’t really look at it like, “Hey I played this venue, last time I played that venue.” That’s for psychos. I don’t do that shit. Competitive fucking lunatics will be like, “How many tickets did this guy sell? Where did he fuckin’ play?” Maybe that drives some people; I shouldn’t say they’re psychos. But I do that a lot—if you don’t do it the way I do it, then you’re a psycho. That’s the level of maturity I’ve achieved. But I just focus on what I’m doing, that’s it.

Any chance you’ll show up in Better Call Saul?
I have no idea. I can tell you I’m not in this season. At the risk of disappointing all those fans, I’m not in this season. But I will be watching every episode. They were nice enough to ask me to host the panel for Comic-Con in San Diego. I did hear them say that this season we’re gonna see Jimmy McGill turn into Saul Goodman, which I think is fucking awesome. That’s why when you ask if I would think about directing, you watch something like Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul, it’s like fuck, I don’t know if I could do that. I have a belief in myself as a comic that I don’t have as a director. What the fuck is with these goddamn meters? I can’t put my card in. There’s like 21 minutes left. I’m going in to the gym and it won’t let me add any time. What do I gotta do, synchronize my watch? Sorry, what was the question?

Not important. Do you know where you want to tape your next special?
No, I don’t. I don’t really know when I’m gonna do it, either. I’m trying to figure out with all of these specials coming out, how to go about releasing my next hour. Everything changes, it’s constantly changing. You can’t be that older guy being like, “Well they used to do it this way, and unless you do it the way they used to do it then you’re wrong.” You’re just gonna be left behind. Nobody gives a shit about your stupid opinion about how they used to do it.

Are you trying to do something a little more unconventional this time?
Great question. But no. I’m not the guy that’s gonna change comedy. I’m the guy that you can pass the torch to and I will go up there with my fucking sport coat and my Miami Vice T-shirt underneath it. If I could grow a mullet I would. I could do that. But I’m not that guy. I’m a long haul guy. Like Emmitt Smith when everyone was freaking out about Barry Sanders going, “Oh, oh, Barry does this and Eric Dickerson does that.” Emmitt Smith just kept chugging along, getting his 12, 15 hundred yards. Or Hank Aaron. He never hit the most home runs in a season then all of a sudden everyone’s like how’d he hit this many? I just hung around long enough.

Will you do The Monday Morning Podcast forever?
If no one was listening, I’d probably stop at 75, 80. I do think it’s gonna be an interesting thing at the end of my life, that I documented every Monday for the last however many years I lived.

You recently had a baby girl. How long before you’d let your daughter check out your stuff?
I don’t think that’s gonna be a problem. Because kids past a certain age are like, “Ugh, God dad, shut up. You’re not funny. You’re so embarrassing.” I think by the time she actually wants to watch my stuff, she’ll be at a maturity level where she can handle it. I just don’t see a kid at 5 or 6 years old wanting to sit down and watch a stand-up special. Would a 5-year-old be into me talking about the population problem? I think somebody with a more absurd style would appeal to her. I’m really saying I’m probably gonna bomb in front of my kid.

So your show’s coming up at Thunder Valley in Sacramento. Well, Sacramento adjacent.
That’s a great name for a TV show, “Sacramento Adjacent.” That’s a great title for something. Don’t put that in your article, someone will steal that.

OK, I won’t. What was your first show in Sacramento? Did you play Punch Line?
I played Punch Line. I stayed in the comedy condo across the street. I never rented a car, so I never really saw downtown Sacramento. There was a dirty McDonald’s that I would walk to and I remember there was somebody on drugs in there and I was uncomfortable while I was eating my food.

What was your memory of the shows?
I just remember that they were really, really fun. I didn’t draw a lot of people. I just remember the people that showed up were really fun. Sacramento, Oakland—they’re just fun crowds, that’s the only way to put it. Every city has a different vibe, but those cities there’s not a lot of heaviness in the audience. I have a gig coming up outside D.C., and they are so uptight and conservative. Everybody’s uptight there. It’s like the Hollywood of politics, everybody’s trying to get somewhere. It’s a very “watch what you say” sort of vibe, and that affects the laughs. You gotta keep knocking at them, going like, “This isn’t gonna affect your next election. No one can see you laughing. Just enjoy it.“ You have to do that a couple times before you loosen them up.

How do you feel about Nanette, and the sort of anti-comedy aspects of it?
That’s nothing new. There was a lot of that with the alt-scene back in the day. There’s always the time where it has to step back and look at itself, there’s always gonna be that. I always found the anti-comedy ones funny in that you could just say, “Stand-up comedy is this, this and this.” Then it’s like “Alright, well, take it in a new direction.” And they never do. Mocking is one of the easiest things to do. God knows I’ve made a fucking career out of it. But to actually be groundbreaking and take it to a new level is different. And a lot of times “groundbreaking” is just something that a young person has never seen before. The amount of shit that I’ve sat down to write, and then I find out that not only did somebody do it, they did it 40 years ago back when allegedly everybody was a bunch of cornballs. I’m watching this show right now, 77 Sunset Strip, that took place during 1958 to—ah, fuck, I drove over a goddamn nail. Look at that. Son of a bitch. Well, there’s no air coming out. Anyway, so the 1950’s were allegedly this conservative time, and then I’m watching this show and every married woman comes on to this private eye. So people still wanted to go around and fuck people. I don’t know, this is a long-winded way to say that it’s all been done before.

See Bill Burr live at the Thunder Valley Casino Resort (1200 Athens Ave., Lincoln) on Sept. 7 at 8 p.m. This show is for people 21-and-over; however, people ages 13–20 may attend if they’re accompanied by a person at least 21 years of age. Tickets start at $42.95. For more info, go to Thundervalleyresort.com.

Another draft dud?

*This article was published in the 6/28/18 edition of Sacramento News & Review*

The Kings came into May’s draft lottery with the 6th-best odds at a top-3 pick in this year’s draft. Fortune favored Sacramento for the second year straight year, and they jumped all the way up to the number two spot . Only this year, the pick was theirs to keep - and with it, a chance at the franchise-altering superstar they so desperately need.

The overwhelming favorite among fans and draft experts alike was Luka Doncic. A 19-year-old star from Slovenia, Doncic became the youngest ever Euroleague MVP while leading Real Madrid to the EuroBasket title just two days before the draft.

The Phoenix Suns, holding the first overall pick, chose Arizona center DeAndre Ayton, leaving the door wide open for Sacramento to nab Doncic. But for the most part, the intrigue was already over, as reports had surfaced hours before the draft that the Kings would take Duke big man Marvin Bagley III.

The Dallas Mavericks, at whose expense the Kings had moved up in the lottery, wasted no time trading for the 3rd pick (via Atlanta) to take Doncic. Many pundits pronounced they’d gotten the draft’s best player.

The Kings disagreed. “Marvin for us is better fit, better player, and great talent,” Kings’ GM Vlade Divac said when asked about passing on Doncic. “So, it was an easy choice for us.”

Doncic and Bagley may be forever linked in fans’ minds, but it will be years before either player - and the team’s decision - can be fairly evaluated. What is open for criticism, though, is the Kings’ all-too-familiar bungling of draft strategy and team building.

First: Marvin Bagley is an excellent prospect. An off-the-charts athlete, tenacious rebounder, and efficient low-post scorer, he put together a terrific freshman year at Duke. His defense is a work in progress, and his size precludes him from being an immediate rim protector, but at only 19, Bagley has time to grow mentally and physically into his 6’11”, 235-lb frame. It may have also helped Divac’ decision that Bagley was one of only two prospects to hold a workout with the Kings, while most others refused in hopes of avoiding Sacramento.

But Divac’ claim that Bagley is “a better fit” is debatable. Bagley joins a crowded Kings’ frontcourt alongside recent draftees Skal Labisserie, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Harry Giles, plus veterans  Zach Randolph and Kosta Koufos. Some of those players will surely be moved, but Doncic would have filled a position of greater immediate need on the Kings roster. Moreover, Doncic’ skilled shooting, passing, and pick-and-roll play would have provided scarce breathing room for the Kings’ 30th-ranked offense. Though Bagley shot well from 3 in limited attempts at Duke, Doncic’ position and skill-set is particularly suited for an increasingly wing-dominated, pick-and-roll-heavy league.

Despite all that - when you are a franchise without a superstar picking so high in the draft, you don’t draft for fit. If the Kings saw Bagley as the best player available, they were right to take him. But it appears they were once again behind the 8-ball from a strategy standpoint by letting their intention to take Bagley leak. With suitors eager to trade up for Doncic, and many projecting Bagley would be available a few spots later, the chance to trade down, pick up future draft assets, and still get Bagley would have been the best outcome. While it’s impossible to know if that opportunity was ever a reality, Atlanta (this year) and Boston (last year) have shown that creative front offices can make it happen.

For now, the Kings bring in another solid building block in Bagley. They also picked up two future second-round picks in exchange for their own, and signed undrafted rookies Cameron Reynolds and Marcus Foster. They will theoretically be players in free agency, if there are any superstars more willing to join them than the draft prospects who dodged them. So after yet another lottery pick in Sacramento, consider the can officially kicked down the road.