You might assume that the 454.7 mile drive from Cleveland to Milwaukee is boring. And if, as a result of that assumption, you failed to pay attention, then you would not notice the world’s largest fireworks warehouse in Fremont, Indiana, or the Recreational Vehicle Hall of Fame in nearby Elkhart. And you would completely overlook my favorite Wisconsin landmark, the Bong Recreation Area on Route 94W. We’d like to tour the RV displays, and the Bong seems like a great spot to unwind for a few hours. But David Fagin and I need to move along and make it to Milwaukee for the second night of our thirteen-city Good For The Jews “Putting The Ha! In Hanukkah” tour.
Bill Stace, who runs the Miramar Theatre, a former silent-movie house, tells us the Milwaukee weather has turned “unseasonably cold” today, which sucks, because “seasonably cold” is fucking freezing. Golda Meir grew up in Milwaukee, but at least she had the common sense to leave for somewhere warmer. We draw an even larger crowd here than we did last year, and the Young Jewish Milwaukee Federation has planned their annual “Latke Vodka” event around our show. It’s perfect: The more vodka they drink, the better we sound.
David won’t eat within four hours of a show, which means he always needs a midnight snack. Tonight, after we cruise a downtown that’s overloaded with drunk college kids in t-shirts, he grabs a drive-through McDonald’s feast: two cheeseburgers, small fries, six-piece chicken nuggets.
Then it’s back to our Best Western hotel. Next door, in room 708, there’s a party going on. “What kind of a party is so loud it even keeps a rock band awake?” David grumbles, perhaps dizzy from all the sodium and cow eyelids. Around 2 a.m., through the thin walls, we hear a screech: “I am so drunk!” When we wake up in the morning, I dial room 708. “Urlloh?” a groggy voice stumbles. “Oh! Sorry!” I say. “I must’ve dialed the wrong number!” On our way to the lobby, we pass 708, and I flip their DO NOT DISTURB sign to the PLEASE CLEAN THIS ROOM side. While we’re still at the elevator, a maid uses her pass key to walk in, and we hear confused yelling as the elevator door closes.
In Chicago, our car keeps slipping around on black ice, and the weather forecast is for “black fog,” a plague unknown even in the Old Testament. Why can’t Hannukah happen in June? Every station in town is playing Styx songs: Annoying. David knows every word to the Styx songs: Even more annoying.
We’re playing the Double Door, in the Wicker Park area, and our opening act is a local comic, Hannibal Buress, who’s been on the Craig Ferguson Show. Hannibal does a joke about seeing Orthodox Jews for the first time: “I couldn’t believe they weren’t even stopping to say hi to one another. If I saw somebody dressed exactly like me, I’d at least be like, yo, nice hat.” And he talks about a Jewish girl he knows, whose parents disapprove of her being a comedian. “I told her, ‘I know one way you could distract them from that,'” he says. “‘Date me.'” Hannibal’s black.
You know what smells really nice? Every place except New York City. Seattle seems like paradise to us: the Triple Door, a gleaming dinner theater, is sold out and we’re fed wonderfully at their Wild Ginger restaurant next door. “I don’t ever want to play in any other club,” David says through a mouthful of sashimi. Fed Ex has misplaced two boxes of merchandise which we’d shipped ahead to Chicago, which means that for four nights we don’t have CDs or t-shirts to sell. But a night like this makes every tour obstacle and boredom seem minor: our improvised bits with the audience work perfectly, my Christian Scientist shtick causes roars and 270 people adore even the stuff we don’t think is so funny. Afterward, a slurry Jewish girl celebrating her birthday makes it clear she’d like to continue to party with us in more intimate circumstances. I give her a chaste kiss and wish her a happy birthday. “Oh,” she frowns. “You’re gay?”