Thursday, October 28, 2010

Interview with a Comic Diva Part Deux: Yamaneika Saunders

A little over a year ago, I met a a beautiful and hilarious woman by the name of Yamaneika Saunders. A year ago August, I published my first interview with this sexy, sassy, no holds bar maven of the microphone. Over the last year, though I have not gotten to see her as much as I would like, I have gotten to know her better, and I love everything about this human being. From her art to her heart, I am a true blue fan of this gem of a stand up comedienne. Yama is an inspiration to me, and I am very happy to present this new interview with her.

Thank you to Yama for providing this very real, very straight up (no pun intended) conversation.

1. You have a keen and vivid sense of the political, talk about how your art as a comedian and your incisive political wit cross? How does your politics as a back woman inform how you choose your topics for your comedy?

Whether I like it or not, I am grouped into this "angry black woman" category, for the sheer fact that I'm loud, black, big and female - so right off the bat there are going to be generalizations. I take it in stride. I am definitely trying to carve out my own unique voice, in hopes that the world will see I'm not defined by my sub-culture.

It's important for me to take on certain topics, as well as, trying to veer from being marginalized and characterized by my physical identity.

2. A few months ago, you thought about giving up on comedy. Let me first say that I am damn glad that you didn't, but can you talk a little bit about what brought you to the point of making that decision? You decided to continue gifting us with laughter, can you talk about why you choose to keep doing stand up?

Well, its still part of the plan for me to take a break. The reason is not that I don't love comedy, I just don't love the business of comedy. I'm always going to be a performer, its in my blood, but if I can't use my gift to save a life or change one then I'm failing. So, its quite possible you might see me make a switch into the ministry very soon. I can tell jokes from the pulpit.

3. We are in a recession, duh, how has that impacted your work as a comedian? And, in this climate, who, if anyone, of your peers is "making it?"

The recession affects the city, a lot, because people want to keep tight with the purse and the clubs want to make money so there are requirements when you come to shows. I try to make it worth everyone's wild when they come and see me, trust me no one is going to say "I wasted money on that show" even if I'm the only person who does well that night, I give 100% and its often times is enough to overshadow a bad night overall (that sounds cocky, but I'm keeping it real) that's not to say I don't have my moments but after being the game so long they are few and far between.

I'm not sure who is making it, we all get opportunities and they seem like they are gong to pan into something, but you just never know. Most of my peers in this game have set such a high standard for "making it" that I think when everyone knows our name we feel like we are "making it". I sometimes get a little ahead of myself because I'll go out to a club and I'll be surprised when someone says "Oh, I saw you at this place or that place" and I'm like "Really? You remember me?"

4. You have an amazing spirit and an obvious strength. Where does that come from? How do you re-energize yourself and keep yourself moving forward?

Thank you, for saying that! It's tough because I as an individual am very weak, in my opinion; the fortitude that I have is from God, without Him I wouldn't even wake up out of the bed. He keeps telling me He has me in His arms, so I step out on faith. My mother also keeps me grounded. She is always reminding me to be strong and stay positive. I have a good friend system too, even though I fight with all my friends and alienate them, the ones who stick around keep me tough, they don't take the shit from me so I can't take it from myself. So, by the time people see me on stage I've been picked up by all the above.

The audience also keeps my strong. I am super sensitive and I have so much I want to say to people, jolt them into reality that life is hard but so the fuck what?! Don't let a person treat you like shit. Don't accept shit! Those are my messages, so when I get on stage I just want to shout and yell and tell everyone FUCK IT ALL LETS LAUGH!

5. You have a show coming up on tonight at Comix in can folks get tickets? Where else can they see you? What else do you have coming up?

Yes, the show at Comix is a hot one! Its been a minute since I've been back in the city, and since I go on the road often I sometimes don't get the chance to really get on at some of the clubs like I could, so its great when I'm able to do such a prestigious club like Comix.

The show starts at 9 PM Oct 28th, which is tonight. Tickets are $20, but anyone who mentions my name at the door gets a $5 discount. So, come out!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

One Liner of the Week Award: Jersey Woman at the Laundromat

This morning, I was up early and at the laundromat before 10am. If you were to judge me by the clothing I had on, you would think I was half-a-step above a psych patient off his meds that would not be out of place preaching the gospel to a recycling bin somewhere in the East Village.

I walked the block to do my laundry, and much to my surprise the place was almost empty. Usually Sunday mornings at the laundromat is a exercise in extreme patience. Usually, I want to start shoving irritable (irritating) old ladies into the jumbo washer and lock it permanently on spin.

This morning, two women that are what the hideous little creatures from the Jersey Shore reality show will someday become were putting clothes into the dryer.

One woman was tatooed to Jesus and the other was so skinny I could see her heartbeat through her chest.

Miss Skinny says, "Oh yeah. You know I am taking tai chi and the instructor is like a master. And he is tall for a CHINAMAN, like 5'10". And you know, those people can, like, just kill you. But he's really nice."

And that, ladies and Chinamen, is the One Liner of the Week.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010



I live with HIV
I have been a part-time junkie
Trying to find something I missed
In between overachieving and the point of a needle
People generally look at me like I am lying
By trying to tell them I am recovering
And some days much less recovered than others
My Mother couldn’t believe that her Straight-A-Beaver-Cleaver
Would cleave to whatever he could snort or swallow or fit in a needle
Powders and pills devouring the pain of little red ribbons
T-Cell Counts and technical knock outs by Chelsea boy faggots
That see only a status
It might mess with their A List adventure if they fall for a retroviral warrior
Rejecting gentlemanly advances as if being asked to marry a leper
All the while playing jeopardy
Take a hit and then split in half/open wide to let the next big raw cock inside
You see Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is all very well in a fairy tale where in
Your sexual health is someone else’s responsibility
Silly me, I thought when I saw your ass bubble cum like a champagne fountain that you had made a decision

Not a wager

Lord and Savior
I know that there is a responsibility for disclosure
But somewhere it was decided that raw riders got to blame others
For riding without a saddle
I am madder than hell that with all my own shit
I have to deal with bitter bitches that pretend to some moral authority
to do as they say and not as they do and do and do
turning you into a cracked out rehabilitation project
filled with so much vehemence
it’s funny that they can’t see the real disappointment
but it’s boring to look at the weeds in your own back yard
when your neighbor has such a lovely garden

Let me be clear with all ya’ll here
If you are choosing to go on a meth fueled sex affair
My responsibility to the outcomes of your personal decisions stop right there

So happy we got all that out in the air.
I feel much better

HIV and addiction fly formation in a circular pattern
Its tough to unlearn
The poison poured into young ears
By the 1980s and shady queers
Never fear!
I am well aware that I am a tragically flawed human being.
There are choices that I have made that have ripped apart the lives of others.
A lover that came to me in tears when he tested positive
Confirming my own fear about my status
Except I had been too cowardly to take the damn test
At least if I had
it would have been only one life in shambles

In the end, I have more than enough to do
Without having to take care of you
Let this serve as final public notice
I am HIV Positive
There is the disclosure that everyone wanted
From now on, make your own damn decisions
and live with the consequences
because when two adults come to a conclusion
that they want a little skin on skin action
the minute your legs are in the upright and locked position
it’s your job to make sure that you don’t have a bumpy landing

Am I being unclear?

That’s your asshole in there
And while another asshole may have told you what you wanted to hear
You are the one that let him steer his jet into your hanger
Check your anger Boo Boo
In this game of cards
A tie goes to the dealer

I feel much better after having written this poem.

I know that I have a lifetime of work left to do
Hope never to have to write another poem like this
Or slip and let addiction back in
But if or when it happens
Or when the next person looks at me and sees only a status
I got this in my arsenal
Poetry sometimes is the best ammo

-Brandon Lacy Campos
-New York, NY
-Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Economics 101 or Why Capitalism Sucks

So, I received an email the other day from a friend of mine from high school. He sent the email to me and to the younger brother of another classmate of ours. Somehow, even though we all went to the same high school and graduated from the same magnet program (International Baccalaureate), Tue turned out moderate, Jared turned out a super conservative, and, well, I think that Sweden is a little too far right.

Tue was struggling around the upcoming election and had a question about the repeal of the Bush tax cuts and specifically whether or not it was cool to return to pre-Bush tax cut tax rates for high income earners while allowing the tax cuts to remain for those making less than $250,000. With all due respect to Jared, his response was something directly from the Rand Paul Bible. He believes that all taxes are wrong and that pure and unadulterated free market capitalism is the answer to all the ills of the world. Jared also suggested that businesses have fled this country because of our tax rates. I almost gagged on my own vomit.

Why thank you Adam Smith! Luckily for us, we have 500+ years now of various incarnations of capitalism that disprove that there little theory.

When I first read Tue's email and then Jared's response, I saw little flashes of red and almost burst a capillary. So, I waited a week before responded.

This was my response:

Dear Tue and Jared:

Actually, businesses left this country because it was easier for them to abrogate their responsibility to the working people that created the wealth that they want not only to maintain but to grow without regard to the social, community, political, or human cost.

I am not a communist, but I do believe in a collective responsibility both to each other and to the means of production. Bill Gates, for example, should reap the benefit of his brilliance. But, without hundreds of thousands of employees, he would not now be the second richest man in the world. His wealth is in direct relationship to the individuals, humans that assisted him in creating that wealth. How then should he have no responsibility, which, in civil society is expressed through wages and benefits to the individual and to the broader society as taxes, to balance his personal benefit against the means by which he acquired his wealth in the first place?

In a purely capitalist system, which has NEVER existed, capitalism will, eventually, create such a disparity in social well being that even if it does not, as Marx suggested, eat it self, it will be destroyed (the good along with the bad) by those that rightly detest the unfair, illogical, and downright idiotic division in wealth.

The idea that those that are wealthy have acquired their wealth through perseverance, self-sacrifice, and by pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps is as much a myth as Santa Claus, and like Santa Claus grown ups shouldn't believe it.

Show me a single major corporation in this country that did not acquire its massive wealth through generous subsidies from local, state and federal governments. Show me a corporate that is older than 70 years that did not acquire its wealth through massive oppression of workers that included state sponsored terrorism of workers. Show me a corporation that is over 150 years old that did not directly or indirectly benefit from slavery. Taxation is fair because the means of wealth creation are, in general, inherently unfair.

Further, if you'd like to discuss the social contract and political security, how then are people who relate to one another in a society based on capitalism and not small, localized barter communities supposed to pay for and sustain collective security while also dismantling despotism and watching out for the human tendency for exploitation? The honor system just doesn't work, and without a social structure to protect it neither does capitalism.

To answer your question, Tue, I believe that since the wealthy rely on the government to maintain their wealth that they should have to pay a proportionate amount of their income to sustain the systems that allow them to remain ridiculously wealthy. In the 70s, the marginal tax rate for the highest income bracket was somewhere around 70%, it is now around 36%...the income gap between the richest and the poorest has increased the largest it has been since before World War II which would lead me to believe that, perhaps, there is a correlation. Oh, and to be even more specific, the income gap began to widen drastically in the 1980s when the marginal tax rate for the most wealthy citizens was greatly reduced WHILE at the same time the Reagan administration began systematically dismantling the Great Society programs. No economist that believes in peer reviewed research and is credible will suggest that the two are unrelated.

We have seen what massive deregulation has done to industry. We saw it under Reagan (trickle down my ass), and we saw it under Bush (gotta love a complete reversal of the U.S. economy).

One of my favorite lines is...if you always do what you always did you will always get what you always got.

So, if you believe the Bush economic policies were good for America, if you believe our country is more economically healthy now than it was in the early to late 90s, then, by all means, vote for the Republicans.

Democrats are not much better but they are better. I pray to Heaven every day for a real change and a multi-party system but that may be too much to ask.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tiffany Brought Me Glee and Glee Brought Me Tiffany

Last Friday, I was on an Adirondack Trailways bus on my way to Accord, NY for the Waking Circle's Fall Retreat. Thanks to the marvels of modern technology, my Facebook account was only an iPhone tap away.

I opened the Facebook app, and I saw that I had a message from Susan Raffo. Susan, as many of my readers know, is one of my favorite people in the entire world. So when I saw that I had a message in my inbox from Susan, I was mighty happy. I opened the message expecting that it would be something wise or witty or fun or thought provoking. Instead, it was a short note letting me know that our mutual friend, Tiffany Harmon, had died of a heart attack the day before.

At first I thought there was something wrong with me. Not only did I not cry or feel sad, I didn't feel anything. As a matter of fact, I got a little pissed off at Susan. There was no question of me believing that Tiffany was dead. I didn't believe. Not only did I not believe it, I rejected it.

Of all the people walking this planet there was no one that I knew that loved God more than Tiffany. Also, on the good person scale from 1 to 10, 10 being Jesus/Buddha/Dalai Lama, Tiffany was, at least, a 9.9998.

So, if Tiffany loved God, and if Tiffany were good, then Tiffany, by all accounts a young woman (maybe 40 years old...maybe), could not possibly be dead. And she most definitely could not be dead from a heart attack. Therefore, Susan was lying and therefore I was pissed.

If you are amazed at my powers of deduction, and denial, you should know I shocked the hell out of myself.

Like a good Minnesotan, I don't do emotions in public, especially on a bus heading towards the idyllic countryside. A bus filled almost exclusively with well-off WASPy white folks. And I was headed to a retreat with a bunch of folks that I didn't know.

Unfortunately, grief acknowledges not geography nor demographic metrics.

The tears started coming, and I pretended as if I were moved by the mist rolling off of the mountains. Such a sensitive soul am I. (Please refer to my line about denial).

I spent a good part of the weekend thinking about Tiffany and the lives that she touched. The first time I met Tiffany was during a job interview. I was applying for the position of Development Associate at YouthLink. Tiffany, as director of human resources, was one of the people doing the interview. I was a finalist for the job along with Susan Raffo. I didn't get the job.

I pretty much thought that was the last time I would see Ms. Harmon.

But, a year later, Susan was promoted to Development Director at YouthLink, I applied, again, for the position of Development Associate, and lo and behold, this time I got the job. Tiffany was again part of my interview team.

From the first moment I met Tiffany, I felt relaxed and welcomed by her. In the grand world of HR personnel, she was pretty much the perfect person for the job. Strong, emotive, empathetic, and able to balance many personalities. She believed in lifting people up, holding them accountable, and helping them figure out how to move from the place they found themselves to the place they wanted to be. Life at YouthLink is always tricky. At the time that we all worked together, YouthLink had just moved its several large programs under one roof. Though each program had been part of the same agency, for years they'd operated almost as independent entities, with their own cultures. When the programs combined...all hell broke loose...again and again over a number of years.

Tiffany sat at the center of that storm. I watched her do her job, and I watched pick at her and cut at her. So I made it my duty to make sure that every day, at least once a day, I would go into her office and do or say something so ridiculous or outrageous that it would force her to laugh (usually followed by her shaking her head and giving me a "Big Mama," look followed by the statement, "Brandon. Brandon. What am I going to do with you?")

I'll tell you what she did with me. That beautiful amazing woman loved the hell out of me, and that love was returned. I watched her struggle with some of the positions of her church around queer folks. I watched her make the choice to leave her church because she couldn't reconcile its teachings with what she knew to be true. I watched her try and love herself in the way that she deserved. Almost every memory that I have of Tiffany includes laughter. How many people in your life do you have where your memories are 99.9% pure joy? Not to say that I never saw Tiffany down or struggling. I've seen her upset and angry. But she always held joy so close to her skin, and she shared it so freely even in times that she might not have had the spirit to give.

I looked back over my Facebook wall, and almost every note I ever got from that woman ended with I love you.

I love you too, Tiffany. I hope you were greeted at the Gates with a big old plate of fried calamari.

I shed my tears for Tiff, and I let go of my anger. And I thought I was doing just fine. And then I started watching the latest episode of Glee. In the new episode, Curt's Dad has a heart attack. And no sooner did I realize what was going on that I had to stop watching and start writing.

This is my goodbye to you, Tiffany. I know I will see you again (I hope not too soon...unless you get resurrected or decide to swing through on a Holy Ghost Conga Line or something). You earned your rest. Sleep well. I know you are with your God, and I know he loves the hell out of your beautiful self. I would be lying through my teeth if I said that I wasn't a little bit angry with him for taking you away. Those children still need you. Those staff people need you. Your family and friends need you. But I guess what you needed was to rest a little while. So take your rest, sweet sister. Sing and shout and dance and laugh and eat and feel that joy that you gave to all of us so freely, so sweetly, and so lovingly. I love you.

Thank you for loving us so well.

Tiffany's family announced that a scholarship fund has been created, in Tiffany's name, for the homeless and at-risk youth served by YouthLink. YouthLink is the largest provider of services to homeless, at-risk, and precariously housed youth in Minnesota. Through programs that provide basic needs of food, clothing, and transitional housing to education programs and a drop-in center for homeless youth, YouthLink changes the lives of young people.

Please consider a gift to the Tiffany Harmon Scholarship Fund. Gifts can be made out to YouthLink, care of Dr. Heather Husesby, Executive Director.

Checks can be mailed to:

41 North 12th Street
Minneapolis. MN 55403

Monday, October 4, 2010

One Liner of the Week Award: Kim Kortum

This last weekend, I was in Accord, New York with eight new friends for the first fall retreat of The Waking Circle. During a break in the day on Saturday, we went for a walk in the beautiful Catskills countryside.

As we walked through the woods, laughing and watching Tasmin the Dog bound around like a a little wood nymph, I was talking with Kim as we walked along next to Barbie and Tim.

Barbie, a vivacious crackerjack of a gal, steps over a log with a large cut off branch sticking straight into the air, grabs at her crotch area and screams, "Oh lord, I've been monkey bubbled!"

Kim and I blinked at each other like two little bunnies and then lost our shit.

I then said, "Sweet Jesus, she's been monkey bubbled in the cooter!" As we glared at the offending log and branch sticking up like a big middle finger in the middle of the woods.

And Kim, with a completely straight face said, "I think that if you get monkey bubbled in the cooter that you should probably go to the E.R or get a shot or something." She nodded sagely. I ruptured an internal organ from laughing, and Barbie finished the walk holding the inside of her leg.

And that, my little great apes is the One Liner of the Week.