Drink to Your Health

In California, it’s called Cali sober, but all over the world people are switching from alcohol to cannabis-infused beverages, purposefully doing away with drunkenness, cognitive fumbling, and stumbling—and possibly that walk of shame the next morning—along with the hangovers. Harm reduction is the new buzzword for switching to weed, with people across the country choosing the plant over booze, stating it makes them better people, parents, and partners.

A Nose for Flavor

Wine specialist and sommelier turned cannabis beverage connoisseur, Jamie Evans, founded The Herb Somm in 2017. The blog and lifestyle brand hosts high-end, gourmet cannabis-infused dinners curated with wine and cannabis. Her first book, The Ultimate Guide to CBD: Explore the World of Cannabidiol, was released in 2020 and features recipes infused with CBD. Her second book, Cannabis Drinks: Secrets to Crafting CBD and THC Beverages at Home, was released in 2021.

“Cannabis drinks are a fantastic alternative to alcohol,” Evans said. “With the new low-dose options that are now available, these beverages can offer a similar experience to drinking one glass of wine or a beer, but without the hangover. Market trends are also showing that more consumers are seeking alternatives to alcoholic beverages for health reasons, which has been driving new curious consumers to the cannabis drinks category.”

In 2021, Evans launched Herbacée, a cannabis-infused beverage company, “celebrating flower and vine.” Evans said the iconic wine regions of France inspired Herbacée. The non-alcoholic cannabis beverage blends phytocannabinoids (cannabinoids derived from plants), terpenes (aromatic compounds which contribute to taste and smell), tannins (a bitter, astringent compound found in things like wine), and terroir (characteristic tastes imparted by the natural environment).

“In researching cannabis, I came across many similarities between the plant and wine, including farming practices and sensory evaluation techniques,” Evans said. “Mixology is defined as the skill of mixing cocktails and other drinks, but at its core, it’s the extensive study of the art and craft of combining flavors.”

Courtesy of Jamie Evans

Cannabis Cocktails

With her new drinks guide, Evans offers recipes, tips, and tricks in making cannabis-infused craft cocktails, smoothies, lattes, and spirit-free mixed drinks at home. Basic infusions include making age-old bitters, honey, sour mix, simple syrups, and alcohol-based tinctures. Using a technique she calls “infused mixology,” the book teaches the basic building blocks of crafting marijuana mocktails.

“One of the most important things to making a good cocktail is balance,” Evans said. “As with all drinks, we must evaluate whether the drink is too sweet or too sour? Is it complex or simple? What’s the texture like? How can you make this drink more intriguing and palatable? Once you can achieve balance, you’ve created a good cocktail. Also, remember that every ingredient that goes into the beverage is meant to enhance the complexity, structure, mouthfeel, and backbone.”

Evans
Courtesy of Jamie Evans

The Future is Fluid

Evans is excited for more people to try their hand at making cannabis cocktails.

“I am enthusiastic about the future of cannabis cuisine, cannabis restaurants, and cannabis-infused beverage bars,” she said. “In my opinion, making your own infusions, such as cannabis-infused simple syrup or cannabis-infused bitters, is the best method to use since it allows you to customize the infusion based on your personal preferences.”

Cannabis infusions will also combine into drinks seamlessly versus using a commercially-made oil tincture. Evans said the only downside with making your own infusions is calculating the dosage. With homemade creations, the milligram count will never be as precise as using a professionally-made product.

If you don’t have time to create your own infusions, Evans suggests adding an alcohol or oil tincture to infuse drinks.

“Dosing in this way is easy when using a measured tincture or water-soluble formulations that have already been tested with protocols,” she said. “CBD isolates using just one compound from the plant, cannabidiol, are another way to infuse a beverage. They are typically flavorless, odorless and are a fast and potent way to integrate CBD into your regime.”

Evans noted consumers can also utilize beverages already infused with THC or CBD right off the shelf, adding the pre-made infusions to their mocktails for another quick mix. She said the most important thing is to make sure everything used can be well blended, mixed, stirred, shaken, or muddled (mashing plants, such as mint or fruit in the bottom of a glass).

Evans said those interested in crafting their own cannabis cocktails can begin by making tasting notes for each ingredient and should not shy away from the herbaceous taste of weed.

“When working with cannabis in a cocktail, don’t mask the flavor of cannabis, complement it,” she said. “A lot of producers add a ton of sugar to drinks that cover the flavors of cannabis. Instead, if you focus on using terpene-inspired ingredients, they will play well with cannabis flavors and your drinks will taste delicious!”

theherbsomm.com

Evans’ book Cannabis Drinks: Secrets to Crafting CBD and THC Beverages at Home contains a wealth of knowledge regarding how to take the guesswork out of making quality homemade cannabis beverages. Here are two recipes from the book.

Evans
Courtesy of Jamie Evans

Ginger Rabbit

Packed with nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, fresh carrot juice adds delicious flavors to drinks and can help improve your immune system, increase your metabolism, and help lower cholesterol. Carrot juice also pairs well with many other fruits, vegetables, roots, and herbs, making it a wonderful item to mix with. Introducing the ginger rabbit: Give this recipe a try when you’re in need of some extra nutrients to help support your immune system or anytime you’re in the mood for an incredibly refreshing drink!

Yield: 1 serving
Target Dose: 8 mg CBD | 2 mg THC per drink (using infused ginger simple syrup), or your preferred dose (using a commercially made CBD or THC tincture of your choice)

Equipment:
Muddler
Shaker tin
Fine-mesh strainer
Collins glass
Bar spoon
Reusable straw

Ingredients:
1 (1-inch or 2.5-cm) piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
2 ounces (60 ml) fresh-pressed apple juice
4 ounces (118 ml) fresh-pressed carrot juice
1 1/2 ounces (45 ml) fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce (15 ml) infused ginger simple syrup 
Ice
Splash of ginger beer 
Carrot greens, edible flowers, and a slice of lemon for garnish

Directions:
Muddle the ginger and apple juice at the bottom of a shaker tin. Muddle well to extract as much ginger flavor as possible. Add the carrot juice, lemon juice, and infused ginger simple syrup. Add ice, cover, then shake for 15 seconds or until very cold.

Using a fine-mesh strainer, separate the solids from the liquids over a Collins glass filled three-quarters with fresh ice. Top with a splash of ginger beer, give it a good stir with a bar spoon, then garnish with a sprig of carrot greens, edible flowers, and a slice of lemon. This drink is best enjoyed with a reusable straw.

Note: When making spirit-free mixed drinks, it’s best to stick with healthier options and avoid extra sugar. I always recommend using fresh-pressed juices over concentrates and to source seasonal ingredients so that you’re working with the freshest produce possible. The same goes for ginger beer—the quality matters. I recommend using Q Ginger Beer because of its extra carbonation and spicy but not overly sweet flavor. Avoid using mixers that contain high fructose corn syrup or a ton of added sugar. These additives can drastically change the drink’s profile. If you don’t have the supplies to infuse the ginger simple syrup, simply substitute for regular simple syrup, then add your favorite unflavored tincture (at your preferred dose) into the shaker tin before muddling. Follow the directions as written.

Infused Ginger Simple Syrup

Yield: about 15 to 16 ounces (465 to 480 ml)
Target Dose: 16 mg CBD | 4 mg THC per ounce (using a flower infusion)

Equipment:
Digital scale
Peeler
Measuring cups
Measuring spoons
Small saucepan
Thermometer
One 16-ounce (480-ml) sterilized Mason jar
Cheesecloth
Fine-mesh strainer

Ingredients:
3 grams decarboxylated flower of your choice
2 cups (480 ml) water
1 cup (340 g) honey
1 1/2 heaping tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into pieces 
1 tablespoon (15 ml) food-grade vegetable glycerin

Directions:
Weigh out 3 grams of decarboxylated flower. Set aside.

Combine the water, honey, and ginger in a small saucepan. Bring to a soft boil, stirring until the honey dissolves into the water. Reduce the heat to around 160°F to 180°F (71°C to 82°C) and add the decarboxylated cannabis.

Simmer over low heat for 50 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat and add the vegetable glycerin—this will give the CBD (and THC) something to bind to. Continue to heat and stir for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Pour the infused simple syrup into a 16-ounce (480-ml) Mason jar through cheesecloth placed in a fine-mesh strainer to remove the solids. Let cool and shake before serving.

This article appears in the June 2022 issue of High Times. Subscribe here.

The post Drink to Your Health appeared first on High Times.

Jamaican Reggae Artist Protoje Creates an Energetic Feedback Loop Through Music

Oje Ken Ollivierre—the Jamaican artist known professionally as Protoje—is a thoughtful, contemplative individual—a thinker, if you will, who is consciously aware of his role as a creator and his responsibility as a creator to share what’s most authentic to him with the rest of the world.

Born into a family of music-minded parents, music started as a hobby for Protoje and eventually took form as a career once he made the conscious decision to go all-in and dedicate himself to his craft. His latest album Third Time’s A Charm acts as a culminating expression of his life experiences and feelings that have brought him through to the present moment.

When we connect over Zoom, Protoje is in a happy, expressive mood—having just taken a quick puff—and from a free and open mindset begins to share his journey through music, his relationship with cannabis, how he channels a higher power for his music’s creation, and how that higher power gives life to further music creation, performance, and sustenance.

High Times: Growing up in a musical family with both parents being musicians, was music always the path for you growing up in that environment?

Protoje: I really wanted to be an athlete first. I wanted to be a long distance runner and was obsessed with basketball in my teens. I always loved music and was involved in it, but it was like a hobby to me.

A little bit before I left high school I started to realize that the idea of getting a job or working somewhere was not sitting well. Not realizing the work it would take to be an artist, I thought maybe I could become one. Everyone was telling me how good I was and I could see how they were reacting [to my music]. So I declared that I was going to be an artist and that was what I was going to do [for “work”].

What was it about the artistic lifestyle that you realized was different from running, different from having a nine-to-five—what was it that really captivated your spirit?

To be honest, it was people’s reactions to hearing me DJ or doing other stuff. I just thought it would be a good way for me to express myself. I think where I felt most natural and felt most happy and content was writing music and singing it to my friends. I would get very excited and it’s what brought me joy.

So there’s a fulfillment element then that being on stage and expressing yourself provides, perhaps in a way that other occupations may not.

I think so. As simple as it is, I just didn’t want to have to report to anyone. I grew up with parents who always helped me feel very free. They had such busy schedules that they just kind of let me set my schedule, so it was very hard for me to adjust to operating on someone else’s clock. Doing so takes away my joy, so I knew that while I wanted to pursue music, I’d also have to do it under my own label. I just really didn’t want to have to report to someone, so I built my entire creative process around that.

When expressing yourself through music, is there a mission that you’re trying to fulfill or is it just an expression of yourself and music happens to be the tool to do that through?

I’ve found that the most honest way to approach music is to speak about experiences and the meaning that I derive from the way that I see things. That to me is me being my most honest self, and doing that is the most important thing for me musically.

So I may feel some way about something and I think the feeling is valid. After sitting with that feeling, I express it. A year later, I may be going through something else, but once it is valid and honest in me, I express it.

The overarching theme is to appreciate—to live in the moment of gratitude—to make use of the time that you have as best as you can. That’s really what I try to do as an individual. Because of that, that’s what my music tends to focus on.

When I listen to my music—look, I have to sing these songs everyday. I’m the only person who has to sing these songs one thousand times. I’m hearing myself sing this stuff all the time. So [the songs] need to be something that resonates with me and that I one hundred percent believe in. That they’re authentic from me. Otherwise, I’m going to hear it and I’m going to cringe.

The other day I had a show that was really hard to get up for energy-wise. I was tired, everyone was tired. I started the show singing “Deliverance” and said “Choosing how I spend my time is completely by design / They don’t even see the trying / All they see is dollar sign / All I make is sacrifice.” I was listening to those lyrics and I got an energy [that woke me up]. And this is why I [create] this way because it helps power the whole thing. Lyrics help power the whole thing of me being an artist.

So it’s almost like a really cool feedback loop. You’re channeling from a higher power, that channeling then leads to the creation of the music, and then the music gives you the energy you need to perform the music.

It’s like if you plant some lettuce yourself and you grow it and it comes up. You take it, and you wash it off, then you cook it, and you bring it out to the table for dinner. You break off a leaf of it and you taste the lettuce. You’re reminded of when you planted it and you get to experience it one more time and it’s a loop. It’s just like that, that’s [how making music] feels to me.

Photo by Yannick Reid

Was there a moment after deciding to focus on music where you realized the path could be both the vehicle to express yourself and provide you with sustenance?

I committed to music very early but it was very hard to get traction. I think when my first single “Arguments” came out and it came out and did well, I was like, “Wow, I’m an artist.” People were starting to recognize that I made music. I knew I had the skills and I knew I had the talent but my main problem was that I thought it was owed to me because I was so talented. I was like, “I’m talented, so why isn’t this person recording me? Why am I not getting the respect?”

Once I realized that nobody owed me anything and that talent alone had nothing to do with it—sure, I’m talented, but many people are talented—I began to realize I needed determination and discipline, and after that, everything started to happen fast.

Once you realized you weren’t owed anything, what was the shift in your actions that led to success?

The shift was immediate. I was at a friend’s playing video games and I went outside and started to smoke. Anxiety came over me like I’d never felt before. I didn’t understand. I knew I wanted to be an artist, I had a song that I was recording, but I was hanging out playing video games with friends during the day. I could tell you how many points Kobe had in the game the night before. But what was I doing every single day [to achieve my goals] apart from writing some songs at night? What else am I doing?

So I stopped everything that day. I got rid of my PlayStation, I stopped watching TV, I stopped everything else I was doing and I just started doing music all of the time. I started to bring my song to every radio station and go to every live event that they had where it was possible for me to get in front of people. Every day, everything I started doing was centered around “how is this helping me get closer to my goals?” I did that for a little and then everything started to happen when I stopped doing everything else. It was wild.

You went all-in and took the action of consistently showing up for yourself. And it sounds like, from that place, good things happened.

G, I’m telling you. In life, I’ve never seen it not work to really just narrow in on exactly what you’re trying to do and work towards it every day. I don’t see how that’s possible to not get closer to your goal if you work towards it every day. Once I realized that, everything changed.

That’s why I tell artists that I work with, “You want this and you want that, but have you done today to get there?”

From that day [of my realization] to now, no matter what it is that I’m doing, every day I do something that is helping me get towards where I am trying to go.

And you’ve had the positive feedback from the universe to validate that way of living.

I know that if I stay up another hour and send out another hundred emails today instead of tomorrow, I’m twenty-four hours closer to getting where I’m trying to go. That’s how I operate.

How do you protect your energy from getting burnt out?

The people around me will joke that I have an obsession or that I need to get hobbies, but I think it’s a balance. I have my family and my daughter, who give me a lot of relief. My family knows that I work really hard because I’m trying to do as much as I can do in as short a time as I can because I don’t want to be out here doing this forever.

I can spend five hours working feverishly on my craft today and then I have ten hours extra that I can use to go to the beach, I can hangout with my daughter, the whole family can chill and watch a movie or whatever—but the thing is, when I’m doing these things, the way my mind works is that these are all life experiences that are going into the process of me thinking. In turn, this leads to my music. You understand? It’s not focusing on being in the studio all of the time or recording all of the time, because that will burn you out. It’s living, experiencing, feeling.

Movies are a big thing for me and my writing because movies really make me feel. To someone else, watching a movie is time off—which it is for me, too—but at the same time, my mind is working and I’m getting ideas. So I’ve found a way to use it all as creativity.

Photo by Yannick Reid

In terms of creativity, what’s the inspiration behind your new album Third Time’s The Charm and what do you hope people take from it?

The album is an extension from [the album] In Search of Lost Time. It picks up right where it left off. Everything was coming from things that I was going through and experiencing. As I said, I communicate best with the world by talking about the things I’m going through and people can relate to it in some way and get something from it for their lives, as opposed to being preachy. That’s something I’m not interested in—being preachy and telling people what’s right, how you should live your life. I’m about sharing my experiences as you would when you meet someone and you’re talking to them.

Think about it: If you meet someone and you’re speaking to them and they say, “Hey look, you should live like this, this is wrong, this is the way,” or whatever, you’re not going to be receptive to the ideas and concepts I’m coming with, right? It’s the same thing musically. I’m just making music and communicating and sharing my thoughts and ideas. Maybe you connect with it, maybe it makes you come up with your own great idea.

I love this album, I really connect with it on a personal level. I love the words that are being said, I love the sounds that are playing behind the words. I love the way the album is mixed, I love the art. The visuals are possibly my most favorite that I’ve ever done. Everything is precisely how I want it to be and that’s what matters to me the most, knowing I’ve done exactly what I’ve wanted to do. However that’s perceived is up to people, and whatever that is, I’ll definitely be able to accept it.

It sounds like you’re consciously making art for yourself which enriches your life, and there’s an awareness of the power it has to also potentially enrich the lives of many others.

I like to think about van Gogh back in the day with an open canvas and him listening to his mind saying “Make this stroke with the brush here, use this color there.” I’d like to think he wasn’t there thinking “I wonder if someone is going to like this color here,” or “I wonder if people are going to like the way I do the grass here.” I don’t think that’s what people are doing when they’re making art. You have a picture in your head and you’re trying to put it as good as you can on the canvas. I feel like I’m hearing the songs in my head and all I’m trying to do is get it as close to how it sounds and looks in my head. When I really break it down to that, it takes away all of the pressure from making art. It helps you as an artist to not be anxious and feel like a hostage.

How does cannabis help you with this kind of creative process?

I have a very interesting relationship with marijuana. Sometimes, it gives me feelings that I’m not too comfortable with. Sometimes it makes me very anxious. Sometimes it makes me doubt myself. Sometimes it makes me question a lot of things. There’s lots of different reactions that I get from it depending on what I’m going through and how I’m feeling within myself.

When I smoke it causes me to overthink a lot and overanalyze. When I’m going through it, I feel anxious, but when I come out of it, I usually find something positive from the experience that I was having. So I’ve even learned to even accept the anxiety at times when it comes.

When I’m creating music—especially when I’m producing or recording another artist—and I’m smoking, it makes me able to spend as much time as needed without losing my focus. When I’m writing, marijuana will help me to be locked in and not be as easily distracted with outside elements. So creatively, I do think it helps me a lot, but I try to make sure that I’m not high all the time either because my conscious brain without being on marijuana is also such an effective thing and it brings its own qualities. It’s about finding the balance as with everything.

Follow @protoje and check out http://www.protoje.com for tickets, tour dates, and his latest album Third Time’s The Charm.

The post Jamaican Reggae Artist Protoje Creates an Energetic Feedback Loop Through Music appeared first on High Times.

Fucked Up’s Damian Abraham Discusses the Importance of Pot, Punk, and Pro Wrestling

Over the past decade and change, Damian Abraham, lead singer of Canadian band Fucked Up, has become a public conduit for punk music, pro wrestling, and pot. With scores of reports covering cannabis, wrestling, and society-at-large, it’s difficult not to acknowledge his contributions over the years. At the same time, awards like the 2009 Polaris Music Prize and various MTV set-destroying performances have helped cement Fucked Up as an act loved by fans and respected by music peers. 

Subcultures including but not limited to punk, cannabis, and pro wrestling are a particular interest of Abraham’s. He calls the groups “communities that exist without the conventional societal push for them to exist.”

Abraham spoke to High Times soon after Fucked Up wrapped its most recent U.S. tour—touching on topics including plant education, cannabis culture, and the overlap between the subcultures he holds dear.

From Straight Edge to Cannabis Enthusiast

Before punk and the plant came into Abraham’s life, there was pro wrestling. As a kid, he recalls being the only one captivated by Wrestlemania 2 while at a friend’s birthday party. The isolated fandom would continue for years.

“It felt like something I did on my own,” he recalled. That wasn’t the case with pot and music.

By 14, he and a group of friends were smoking a bit of weed while being self-described “shit disturbers” in the Toronto area. A minor run-in with the cops forced Abraham to step away from his friends at his family’s insistence. Despite being terrible at sports, he was sent to a sports camp to become a counselor. While there, he met a similarly minded counselor-in-training.

The eventual friend hit all the marks for Abraham: He was into Sonic Youth, graffiti, and also smoked weed. Pot took a backseat to the other two interests for several years. At 16, he accepted the straight edge punk lifestyle, abstaining from alcohol and drugs, including weed. The practice would continue for years, with Abraham still abstaining from drinking.

Years later, he’d “break edge” during a tour, smoking pot. He said he noticed an immediate beneficial result. 

“It just immediately connected everything,” Abraham said.

That immediate connection led him on a years-long journey, learning about the plant and its impact on the body.

“I certainly have other things in my medicine cabinet, but cannabis is my go-to medicine,” said Abraham. Now in his early 40s, Abraham continues his plant education, hoping to get into growing and genetics more in the near future.

An Enthusiast Turned Journalist

Evangelical-level passions have led Abraham on several fulfilling career journeys so far in his life.

Beginning in the middle of the last decade, written and video journalism pieces from Abraham started to highlight the emerging world of cannabis. Abraham’s work also includes wrestling-centric pieces. In 2018, he and Vice Canada produced The Wrestlers, a 10-part series examining global wrestling communities. Cannabis did not play a part in the series. Instead, episodes included in-depth looks at different wrestling worlds, including the revolutionary Fighting Cholitas of Bolivia, the voodoo-wrestling crossover in the Congo, and performing on Canada’s First Nations reserves.

He hoped to make the show for existing fans while highlighting the various entryways a person can become a wrestling fan. “There’s ways to appreciate it as a physical ballet; there’s ways to appreciate it as a human stunt show; there’s ways to appreciate it as high art,” Abraham said. 

But most of all, he wanted to use the show to highlight “the ultimate art” wrestlers create, sacrificing their bodies every night in the ring. Wrestling fans have asked for a second season, but Abraham isn’t sure where to turn with Vice Canada shuttering during the first season’s production process.

“I don’t even know who to talk to now, but I’m trying to do more of it,” he said, noting that pro wrestling has tons more stories to tell.

The Importance of Proper Pot Education

While each subculture is a passion and holds a spot in his heart, Abraham is quick to point out that cannabis’ journey to becoming a subculture and eventually reaching the mainstream has been more complicated than the others. 

“I think cannabis had a harder path to exist and to thrive as a community at different times and at different places,” he said, acknowledging the ills of the drug war and its ongoing global adverse effects, often on marginalized communities.

Later in our conversation, Abraham called Harry Anslinger, often regarded as the architect of the drug war, “One of the great war criminals of the cannabis war.”

Erasing the stigma around cannabis use continues. As does creating a mainstream public awareness of the plant and its science. A particular sticking point for Abraham is how “We built this industry on indica and sativa,” citing the oft-held notion that indica produces sedative effects and sativa creates uplifting effects. While true in some cases, indica and sativa are meant to describe a cultivar’s shape and plant structure, not results.

“I’ve seen people dab Congolese Haze, which is apparently a pure sativa, and I’ve seen people pass out,” he said. On the other hand, he reports smoking indicas in the morning and having an effect similar to caffeine, especially when his now-teenage son was a newborn.

During the same period, Abraham realized how edibles helped him sleep during that time. But he doesn’t partake in Canada’s legal edibles market, claiming that he’s priced out due to dosage issues. A high-dose consumer, Abraham reports needing products with over 1000mg of THC potency to feel any effect. With Canada capping THC at 10mg per package, he’d have to buy and consume such large quantities that the cost or experience wouldn’t justify the effects.

“There’s people that I talk to that find an unbelievable effect with a 10 milligram gummy and…my dose is around a thousand milligrams,” he said.

Abraham claimed that his most productive night of work came when consuming roughly 5000mg.

“I did two articles for Vice, interviewed a guy, and saw Madball in concert,” he recalled.

Can Canada Reclaim Its Cannabis Culture?

Looking at the U.S., Abraham would like Canada to adopt specific state-level policies, notably consumption lounges. He likes the business model but, more so, finds value in its potential community building. He said that lounges and meetups were where he met growers and other informed pot enthusiasts, providing him with critical cannabis information.

Since legalization, he feels Canada has “put a lot of water on the fire” of the cannabis community, with the pandemic further clamping down on social gatherings, networking and information sharing. While he feels the market will improve as the public becomes more aware of the plant and its rules, he wonders if the optimism and energy can fully return.

To see the fire burn bright again, Abraham hopes to see varied settings for Canadian cannabis consumers.

“There should be a place where you can go, and it can be like a pharmacy,” Abraham said. He continued, “But there’s gotta be places like where I was in Colorado last week where they pulled out the jar and I could smell it.”

The post Fucked Up’s Damian Abraham Discusses the Importance of Pot, Punk, and Pro Wrestling appeared first on High Times.

Chistes para Leer en el Baño, Timidez y Marihuana: ¿Quién es Octavio Saraintaris, el Ilustrador Detrás de Chavo Escrotito?

Nota por Hernán Panessi publicada originalmente en El Planteo. Más artículos por El Planteo en High Times en Español.

Síguenos en Instagram (@El.Planteo) y Twitter (@ElPlanteo).

Un poco fue el encierro, otro poco la manija. Pero más, mucho más, el escape a cierta timidez. Así fue cómo Octavio “Chavo” Saraintaris puso en suspenso sus ganas de estudiar stand-up y volcó en la intimidad del papel toda esa pulsión de hacer comedia que llevaba encima.

Hoy, a poco más de dos años de haber comenzado con Chavo Escrotito, su reverso dibujante en el que explora chistes volados, absurdos y fumones, Saraintaris se convirtió en uno de los más destacados humoristas gráficos del 2022.

Contenido relacionado: La Historieta Argentina y la Marihuana

“Quería desarrollar alguna habilidad que no tuviera. Voy a probar dibujando”, se dijo Chavo en plena pandemia cuando compró dos cursos en la plataforma Domestika: uno de formas, otro de cómics. “Si el chiste es bueno y el dibujo zafa, la cosa va. Pero al principio no zafaba nada”, tira el nacido en Don Torcuato, en la zona norte del Gran Buenos Aires.

Los cursos le dieron algunos conocimientos básicos para dibujar cuerpos. “Parece que mis personajes están de costado pero están de frente”, bromea el ilustrador de 29 años.

Chistes de escrotos

Empezó con una cuenta de Instagram llamada @escrotito, pero perdió el password. ¿Por qué “Escrotito”? Porque los testículos le dan mucha gracia. “Son dibujos crotos. Escrotos. Escrotito. Me gusta el concepto”.

Y en su proceso creativo está completamente presente el factor ocurrencia y, por supuesto, gravita con peso la espontaneidad. Por eso, cualquier pavada que se le ocurra va a parar al bloc de notas de su celular.

Mientras lo abre para mostrar su trabajo, asoma el spoiler de algunos chistes que vendrán: “Los tres cerditos y el Lobo de Wall Street”, “Soy tu yo-yo del futuro”, “Metallica antes de que se cree el metal: Maderallica”.

Contenido relacionado: Entrevista con Dr. Kurnicopia: Viñetas, Porros y Tazas de Té

Me obligo todos los días a dibujar seis o siete chistes. De esos, publico dos y el resto los voy guardando. Por ahí en un día subo tres o cuatro”.

La viralidad

En tanto, el primer aval de las redes sociales vino del Dr. Kurnicopia, popular dibujante 420, que compartió un dibujo suyo en su feed y, de sopetón, subió 1000 seguidores.

También, el mismísimo Esteban Podetti suele tirarle buena onda y el legendario Sergio Langer lo recomendó para publicar en la Revista Barcelona, donde lo hizo durante los últimos 15 números.

¿Su publicación más viral? La del Bebito Bebito Füführer, en referencia al viral “Mi Bebito Fiu Fiu”, una canción paródica que fue tendencia en todas las redes sociales y que Chavo Escrotito le encontró un giro gracioso.

De golpe, el Bebito Füführer, con clara referencia al bigotito de Adolf Hitler, empezó a circular en grupos de WhatsApp, síntoma de popularidad absoluta. “Encima lo dibujé como el orto”.

Contenido relacionado: El Iván de Quilmes, el Tatuador Más Argentino de Todos

Entre sus influencias, Chavo reconoce a Podetti que “tiene un humor muy inteligente” y al fallecido John Callahan, ilustrador norteamericano conocido por tratar temas macabros y discapacidades físicas. “Callahan tuvo un accidente de autos, quedó en silla de ruedas y siempre hizo chistes muy borders. Se manejaba al borde del humor”, cuenta.

Por estos días, Chavo Escrotito supera los 10.000 seguidores en Instagram, está por sacar un fanzine junto a la cervecería Temple Bar, viene de hacer unas ilustraciones para una botella de caña con ruda, de escribir unos chistes para la serie de YouTube Un Mundo Sin… y de guionar y dibujar un corto llamado Ascensor, con dirección de Matías Sinay y Picho Brazo.

La vez que terminó en el médico por fumar porro

Usualmente, Chavo le da dos secas al porro y listo, ya está. Suele fumar en la casa de su familia, junto a sus (¡seis!) hermanos, mientras ven películas. “A mí no me funciona para la ocurrencia. Fumo y me quedo ahí. Y lastro, me como todo. Para ver películas me encanta”, devela.

De hecho, su humor está tan signado por el espíritu 420 que, cada vez que lo reconocen (no suele mostrarse en redes sociales), le adosan una personalidad cannábica. Pero no, puro prejuicio: “Nada que ver”, se ataja. “Como soy bastante tímido, digo que ‘sí’ y la dejo seguir”, sigue.

Contenido relacionado: Hablamos con el Autor de ‘Legalization Nation’: Cómics, Cannabis y Una Mirada Acerca de la Post-Legalización

Sin embargo, esto de fumar en casa de sus padres es algo totalmente nuevo. No siempre pasó. De hecho, sus viejos no lo aceptaban. Y esta ristra de “peros” anida en una vieja anécdota que lo tiene al Chavo como protagonista.

A los 15 fumé una banda sin saber cómo se fumaba. Fuimos con uno de mis hermanos a las cinco de la mañana a un McDonald’s. Ahí, me empecé a sentir mal: ‘llevame a casa’, le dije. Sentía que se me salía el corazón del pecho. Entré al cuarto de mis viejos y les dije que estaba teniendo un infarto. Me llevaron al médico y yo no había dicho nada que había fumado. Llegamos al hospital y estábamos los cuatro: mamá, papá, la médica y yo. ‘Vos fumaste’, me acusó la doctora. ‘Sí, vos fumaste marihuana’, insistió con el dedo. Ahí mi mamá empezó a gritar sacada ‘mi hijo es un drogadicto’. Entonces, mi vieja llamó a mi hermano y le hizo la boba: ‘me dijo Octavio que fuman’, le dijo. ‘Solo esa vez’, le respondió mi hermano. ‘Bueno, te agarré porque él no me dijo que vos también habías fumado’”.

Una anécdota que, honestamente, sería increíble de ver en una película dirigida por Judd Apatow o Adam McKay, pero pasó en la realidad.

Contenido relacionado: Grandes Autores del Cómic Mundial Dibujan Héroes Cannábicos para Banco Español: Conocé Hero Seeds

Con el tiempo, sus viejos su amigaron un poco con la idea del porro e, incluso, alguna vez, para probar, le dieron una pitadita. “Tampoco es que mi casa es la casa de Bob Marley pero, cada tanto, un viernes, para ver una película con mis hermanos, fumamos y nos cagamos de risa”.

La importancia del baño

Entre sus pendientes está aprender el oficio de animar: quiere empezar a hacer chistes para TikTok. Pero más, infinitamente más, quiere sacar un libro: “Es mi único objetivo desde que empecé. Quiero que se llame Los Mil Chistes para Leer en el Baño. Ahí, cuando salga, lo pongo en mi biblioteca y me retiro del humor gráfico”, cuenta.

Mientras tanto, ya publicó algunos fanzines. Todos, curiosamente, con referencias al baño. Es, digamos, la Trilogía del Baño, “mi Lord of the Rings”. ¿Sus nombres? Una ida al baño, Una vuelta al baño y Una vida en el baño, que está por salir.

Estoy mucho tiempo en el baño. Después de cada comida voy al baño. Unas tres veces por día voy al baño. Me gusta pensar en el baño. Es una zona de descarga, me siento bien”, señala.

Y continúa: “Es como un círculo. Me encanta llevar libros, revistas, cómics. En muy pocos lugares me concentro para leer. Quiero que la gente lea mis fanzines en condiciones óptimas. Pienso que leer en el baño es el ideal. Lo mío se dio medio de casualidad. Los chistes son cortitos, el tiempo ideal para que no se te duermen las piernas”.

Los límites del humor

Así las cosas, por el contenido de algunos de sus chistes, la red social Instagram ya le voló un par: uno con un dálmata (“Siento un dálmata”, imagínenselo ustedes mismos) y varios con penes.

Contenido relacionado: Conocé a Marijuanaman, el Superhéroe Cannábico de Ziggy Marley: Hablamos con Uno de sus Autores

“Ahora, los chistes más borders me los guardo. Los tengo en una carpeta separados, para cuando saque algo más físico”, comenta este fanático del corrosivo Louis C.K.

Entre sus lectores, ¿hubo ofendidos alguna vez? Pocos: uno o dos, máximo. “Me acuerdo de una vuelta que una mina me puso ‘ES MUY OFENSIVO, pero es gracioso’. Le dije ‘gracias’”.

The post Chistes para Leer en el Baño, Timidez y Marihuana: ¿Quién es Octavio Saraintaris, el Ilustrador Detrás de Chavo Escrotito? appeared first on High Times.

You Bring the Spliff, Comedian Jade Catta-Preta Will Bring the Fire

Drawn to the comedy community, Jade Catta-Preta took a job bartending at The Store and soon moved into working out sets, making her the first female employee to take the legendary stage. She’s gone on to perform worldwide in both English and Portuguese, landed shows like Girl Code, Punk’d, and The Soup, and was tapped to guest judge on Netflix’s Cooking with Cannabis. Her hustle was, and still is, the exact opposite of a “hot mess.”

Her newest step into the reality world puts Jade in the host and judge seat as the heat gets kicked up the Scoville scale on Hulu’s Hotties, a dating/cooking show hybrid that gives you cottonmouth just watching it. Could there be a marijuana element added to the next season? We talked to Jade about that, her special jaded. and the musical version coming out next month, and of course, her love affair with marijuana. 

High Times: Did you get the gig at The Comedy Store because you wanted to be a comedian or did having a job there turn you into one?

Jade Catta-Preta: Kind of both. The first time I went to The Comedy Store, [comedian] Sandy Danto brought me there. I had got a job for National Lampoon doing a clip show and he was like, I think you have a comedy cadence. I didn’t really want to go, but then we got super high. It was actually one of the first times I had smoked California weed. We went to The Comedy Store and there was this crazy sense of familiarity like I’d been there before or something. I was so drawn to the building itself and the history of it all. I just knew I had to be there.

Grateful you felt that pull because it all led to your special jaded., which is so damn funny. How are you feeling now that it’s out?

I’m glad I’m done with it! I’m ready to graduate! I did it in the middle of COVID and there are a lot of jokes within it that I don’t feel as connected to anymore, so I can’t wait to make the next one a little more personal. I had it so memorized though; I was like, it’s never gonna be this good again. I also had a full band and did a musical version so I’ll be releasing that special on a website called Moment.co on October 20th. I’m so excited and after I release that, I’ll never release anything again! I’ll just do podcasts forever.

You say that now, but that’s probably how people feel when they push out that first baby.

True, and now I get to kind of focus on myself and what I actually want to say. Like, how do I actually wanna feel? I would like to share a little more of myself.

Then it’s settled, you’ll release more. Glad we talked this through. In your special you sing a song about what’s not chill, but what is chill after you hit a joint?

I think everything is chill after you smoke weed, especially after you eat a great meal. If I didn’t have weed, I would just be a manic freak. Weed makes me feel normal. Weed makes me not overthink everything and it gives me a break from myself. I love the community and bonding aspect of weed too. The only thing I don’t like to do when I’m high is perform, which is funny. I think I get off on comedy because there is this sense of control. Even if it’s a false sense, I love that.

You also mentioned in the special that when your parents smoke weed, you get named Jade. Joke or fact?

It’s kind of a joke. My dad was an artist, so he had a lot of other artist friends that were always around. He made holograms and was one of the pioneers in the 80’s. There were always a bunch of crazy dudes around who loved rock-and-roll and weed. It’s funny because they did everything they could to keep it away from us, obviously, but my dad had those roach scissors and my sister and I knew what it was. I think I romanticized Pink Floyd and Cheech and Chong, just that era of potheads that were cool and doing creative shit. That is kind of always what I aspired to be.

Photo by Van Corona

What’s your preferred method of marijuana intake?

One hundred percent, it’s a spliff. I hate cigarettes, but it’s just a tiny bit of tobacco. I love the act of rolling it, it’s like a little weird thing I enjoy. I like blunts too because I’m from the east coast originally. It’s funny because in L.A., you smoke a blunt and when it’s almost done, you toss it out. In New York, you get it down to the point where you can barely hold it and people are like, “Don’t throw that roach out!”

What strain do you go for or do you switch it up?

Sativa. I can’t do a Jack Herer though because I will clean my whole house with a toothbrush. I’m not really a big fan of indica because it makes me sleep on the couch and I hate getting sleepy from weed. I like when I feel a little pick-me-up when I smoke. I like right when it hits you because it’s like, ahhhhh. I feel like if I’m home and it’s after 5 pm, whatever I’m doing after that, I’m usually stoned. I should cook more but I’m like, how do I get this condiment in my mouth? I’ll just grab turkey and put mustard on it like, I cooked this! The stuff I get into is ridiculous and mostly just grabbing a bunch of stuff and putting it in my mouth all at once. Then chewing.

What if someone was like, we want you to name a strain. What would you call it?

I’d name it something Brazilian like, Alegría, because it means happy, but it’s also like, what is that word? In Italian it means “cheerfulness,” so I love that. I saw that [Seth] Rogen was doing a weed strain and it’s like, I want to do a weed strain! What a cool space to be in, even though I guess I don’t know strain names anymore. I used to be like, give me that Blue Dream or lemme do that Lamb’s Breath. Lamb’s Breath, by the way, is my favorite strain of all-time. It’s an old and perfect strain that was hard to find even before it was legalized. I think it’s a very expensive to produce because it’s the perfectly balanced hybrid. Something like that. Can you also put somewhere that dispensaries can send weed to me whenever they want? That’s more chill than a stranger that’s like, “Hey I like your butt photos, here’s some weed.”

Putting that all into the universe right now. Hotties definitely pairs well with a sativa. It also really takes your mind off of everything but laughing at people.

That’s the best part, you can get super fucking high and watch my special and Hotties and it’ll be even better. That’s the kind of TV I like. People make fun of me because I love reality TV, but it just puts me in such a calm spot. I’m also voyeuristic so I love watching people that know they’re going to be watched. I like seeing what happens to their personality and how they portray themselves. I read somewhere that Hotties is all fake, but honestly, it’s the least fake thing I’ve ever done. Everything happened as it happened. Everything I said in the moment, they kept. There’s editing, but they didn’t take things out or create some “dating moment.” We’re hoping that if we get a second season, it gets even hotter and weirder and maybe people are drinking. Or maybe, there can even be a weed aspect added! You never know!

Do you think you have more burning butthole jokes in you?

I always have more butthole jokes, but I don’t know if I have any more hot pepper jokes. My friend J. Chris Newberg, who’s an incredible writer and comic, wrote on the show too and we were definitely running out of pepper puns by the end.

The post You Bring the Spliff, Comedian Jade Catta-Preta Will Bring the Fire appeared first on High Times.

‘The Machine’ Keeps the Party Going

Crusher of irreverent comedy and podcasts, master storyteller, and the king of all parties, Bert Kreischer is a man of many hats—and it would seem, few shirts. There are numerous things that keep “The Machine” running, and one of them happens to be that sweet, sweet green (although he prefers his green in a shade of Blue Dream). We sense he’s down for more than just that though because, let’s be real, what isn’t this man down for?

Traveling across the country on The Berty Boy Tour while also recording his popular podcasts Bertcast and 2 Bears 1 Cave (co-hosted by Tom Segura), Kreischer is partying and puffing the whole way. Before his stops in Colorado and Canada, this insanely busy bear made time to chat with High Times about his weed preferences, high hobbies, and cringeworthy cannabis memories. Spoiler: You’re gonna want his life.

High Times: How old were you the first time you smoked weed, and how did you get it?

Bert Kreischer: I was 15 years old. We went to a pool hall in West Tampa, [Florida] and we bought weed from a big Native American dude. It’s so funny because nowadays, I look back and think it was so hard to get back then. We walked to a pool hall, and my buddy Sal went in. I don’t even know how we knew that we could get it from that guy. Back then, it was almost like panning for gold. You go in there like, “Does anyone have weed in here?” It’s that fucking crazy.

Oh yeah, back then, it was like my friend’s third cousin said if you “ask for Earl,” you can get a 40 and a dime bag. So we’d drive an hour away for “Earl.” Do you remember the first song that you got high to?

Yup! Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb. We planned it! We went to my friend’s house and turned on Pink Floyd because we were told that’s what you get high to. So, we smoked weed, and I waited for the song to get better. All I knew was that the song was supposed to get fucking good! I didn’t get high the first time because it didn’t work. Everyone was like, “Yeah, you don’t get high your first time. It’s your second time or third time.” My buddy came in and was like, “It’s my third time, and I’m really high.” I was like, “Oh man! I can’t wait until I’m three times in!” It’s so crazy because we did all the stereotype things you “should” do if you’re smoking weed. It was all stuff someone’s older brother had done. My buddy was like, “Hey, if I put this jar over my head, you won’t hear me speak.” Then, as he pretended to put a jar over his head, he’d stop talking, and we’d all laugh at the dumbest fucking joke because we thought, I guess, we’re supposed to laugh.

Photo by Todd Rosenberg

When did your “third time” finally hit?

I smoked weed a bunch from freshman to sophomore year. It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I got really fucking high. Like, really high where I had a panic attack and thought, “Oh fuck. This is a drug.” I was like, “Oh shit, it’s working this time. I can’t feel my face.” We rolled the joint out of the back pages of the bible, and I was like, “God’s getting even with me! Fuck!”

Good God. Literally. What’s the highest you’ve been as an adult, and how did you get there?

I was pretty high last night! There’s a club in Toronto that you can do stand-up at, and Doug Benson told me, “Write your set down because you will forget your set just from the contact high.” The smoke was so thick that five minutes into my set, I was high, and my throat was burning.

Edibles are the thing that fuck me up the most, though. Joey Diaz gave my dad edibles one Easter, but he didn’t know it, so I took them too, so he wasn’t high by himself. We had one of the best conversations. We were drinking whiskey, high as fuck sitting in my backyard having a cigar. I said to my dad, “I feel like you don’t like me at times.” He just goes, high as fuck, “You make me uncomfortable.” My dad was high as shit, and he goes, “You know, I lost my dad at a young age and I’m afraid I’m going to lose you because your lifestyle makes me uncomfortable.” I asked what I could do to fix it and he said he wanted me to go to a cardiologist of his choice to have the tests that he felt like needed to be run. I was like, “Of course! I want a better relationship with you.” He was like, “This is the greatest night ever!” Two weeks later, I went to the cardiologist and had everything scanned and tested.

And then did you roll up some weed in the cardiologist report and smoke it?

I should have! I should’ve been like, thank God marijuana was here the night Joey Diaz roofied my dad!

What is your go-to weed on the road, and what’s it like when fans bring you any type of drug these days?

After I was roofied by Ari Shaffir, I started becoming very skeptical about everything. I never once thought about it before. Now I’m very specific. I have my own weed, and I have a certain strain that I like, which is Blue Dream. It makes me feel very comfortable. It makes me feel relaxed, so I can sleep better too. I also have a couple vape pens in rotation and some Durban Poison and Jack Herer, a couple strains that are good creative ones.

Even though I don’t think everyone can pull them off, I want to support your passion for Speedos. Mostly because I hear they make you “swim like a fucking dolphin.”

Water is fucking fascinating when you’re high. I always end up in a Speedo, high, and in the pool every time I get high when I’m home. Every fucking time. I end up in my Polar Plunge, or I end up in my pool—it’s my favorite thing. The first time I realized how great water is when you’re high was when we were having a pool party, so there were a bunch of kids there. We also hired two lifeguards, so everyone felt really comfortable. One of the dads was like, “Hey, you wanna get high?” I said, “Yeah sure, we’ll get high.” I just ended up in the pool playing sharks and minnows with the kids laughing hysterically like, this is fucking awesome! And I was in a Speedo, so you know I was like a dart in that water!

Photo by Troy Conrad

I don’t understand how you became the coolest human alive. Your promos? Also cool. Do you come up with those, or are they a group effort?

I wish they were a group effort! We have a drone and it’s literally about turning on the camera and figuring something out. We just made one for Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado in the middle of nowhere. I had some ski pants that I just bought, and we grabbed the drone to make it look like I had just got done hiking. Red Rocks is going to be the best because they tell you that you can either leave the venue right when you get off stage or you can hang out. But if you hang out, you have to stay for three hours while traffic leaves. Three hours? You get a caterer there and you plan a party there! Why wouldn’t you stay in Red Rocks and party? There’s no one there!

Because people don’t think like you. Please refer back to “you being the coolest.”

Yeah, people are like, “Get me the fuck out of here,” and I’m like, “Keep me at this venue!” Last time I did Red Rocks, we were having a party, and everyone is backstage. Around midnight, no one is in this venue, so I go out to the stage with a joint and a cocktail. I lit the joint and sat there and looked up at the stars and rocks thinking, “Fuck, I just did this!” It was the greatest. I’m looking forward to that moment again after the show.

Any thoughts on uninvited party crashers?

I’m so unaware of everything that’s going on. I played The Greek [Theatre in Los Angeles], and it was so fucking fun, and the security was slam-packed. People were coming up to the stage to give me joints, and I was like, “Yeah! This is great!” I was just oblivious to all of it and why there was so much security. I was like, “Don’t charge me for the extra security! That’s on you!” I also think if you’re one of my fans, and you come rushing the stage, you’re gonna get winded. If you do that and get past security, just give me a hug.

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This article appears in the August 2022 issue of High Times. Subscribe here.

The post ‘The Machine’ Keeps the Party Going appeared first on High Times.

Unlike Rose in Titanic, Shrooms Offered Comedian Jessimae Peluso a Door

Comedian Jessimae Peluso has had cannabis filling her lungs long before she took the stand-up stage at age 19. She actually got into the “weed game” by accident while in the back of a Geo Tracker in high school, but marijuana ended up being a running theme in her life. Throughout her career on shows like MTV’s Girl Code, The Joe Rogan Experience, Netflix’s Tattoo Redo, and on her own Sharp Tongue Podcast, Peluso is always advocating and always stoning.

She recently entered the world of microdosing psilocybin and credits it for helping her deal with grief and recognizing and releasing past trauma. It’s been an epiphany-filled journey for Peluso, and one she vows to delve further into in order to work on herself. Before heading cross-country on her “Gyrl Tour” with fellow comedian (and ex-castmate on Girl Code) Carly Aquilino, Peluso talked with us about her BFF MJ, her intentions of slowing down with the help of microdosing, and how she learned to breathe again thanks to a little magic mushroom.

High Times: Let’s start at the beginning. When did you pop your Mary cherry?

Jessimae Peluso: The first time I remember smoking weed, I was a freshman in high school and it was a “second-hand scenario” because I was in the back of a Geo Tracker with about 32 people. I’m not sure if that’s the exact number or a result of being second-hand high and my brain’s inability to count, but one of the people weighed north of 250 pounds and I was inside of him somehow. I was engulfed in his lovely mass. That was the first experience I ever had with weed. In a car, filled with friends, clearly stoned, and driving the streets of upstate New York listening to The Notorious B.I.G’s Ready to Die. It was amazing and I didn’t even put a blunt to my lips. I just felt something that made me want to go further. I still had my hymen and those days were great! A hymen and a blunt? I’d kill for that and I’m almost 40!

Courtesy of Jessimae Peluso

It’s sometimes still mind-blowing that weed is everywhere and I got grounded by my parents for it.

I experienced those things back in New York where you are like, oh, this is illegal. But then you take a hit and you’re like, let’s talk about legality of the soul. And it’s still a topic that’s divided only by people who haven’t realized the medicinal value of the plant. They seem to be the ones who make the biggest judgements about it. I’ve realized its value as a medicine in my healing with letting go of trauma and being able to process trauma and grief. It’s been an amazing tool for me.

The irony is that the people screaming the loudest could probably benefit from it.

Yes! There’s plenty of science now! We know what it’s good for and we know that it’s being used to help people with PTSD. I mean, men and women from the military who are sent home with terrible PTSD are being administered marijuana as a medicinal implementation into their healing. It’s so interesting. Look at alcohol and what it does to people, it’s an outward expression. There’s a lot of anger that can come out and you can express yourself in a way that can be regretful the next day. I mean, you’re calling exes! You’re just belligerent! On weed, I can’t lift my fingertips to press send on a text that is literally all t’s. Just one big row, TTTTTTTTTTT. Alcohol takes, and medicines like marijuana and psilocybin give. They even teach you to give because of how insightful they are. I’ve had some of the most life-changing epiphanies on a blunt. Oh my god, the irony of it all.

Celebrity strains are all the rage so I know you’ve tried at least one. Name drop.

I have! A friend of mine, Jaleel White, and one of the greatest companies in California, 710 Labs, did a collaboration called, Its PurpL. Jaleel’s an amazing human, a really great friend, and if you know, you know. I mean, it’s fucking Family Matters. Hello? I’m a supportive friend regardless, but I gotta tell you, the weed is legit. He sent me a welcome gift when he launched his product and it came with a fucking cast iron waffle maker and infused syrup!

No part of me hated that story. Shout out to Stefan. Now tell me the story about how you got into mushrooms. It was pretty recent, right?

Oh, let me tell you, I did mushrooms in high school and they were the shitake! No, it wasn’t that long ago. Microdosing psilocybin was introduced to me through the process of grief. I dabbled a little after my dad passed away, and then shortly after, my mom died and I microdosed almost daily after that. It was almost like that door that Rose was greedy with in the movie Titanic. She had enough room for Jack! Rose was a greedy bitch, but shrooms offered me the door. Shrooms were like, you’re drowning in this cold ass water, just come on out of the water for a minute and catch your breath. When it comes to microdosing, it’s such a gentle introduction into what psilocybin can offer. From my experience, I entered low and slow. I always go low and slow with anything in my life now. I realize the value of just slowing down and letting things inform me. That’s the thing about psilocybin, it’s a very informative medicine, especially if you let yourself be introduced to it on a microdosing level.

Photo by Rebecca Perry

Did you take a tour guide with you on your first walk with psilocybin?

My friend Jackie, who is like one of my soul sisters, has been somewhat of a psychedelic guide for me in helping introduce me into that world and to enter it with caution while being mindful. I’ve been really fortunate to be introduced by people who have a lot of experience and understand its value as an evolutionary tool for an individual. I’ve also been mindful of its implementation into my life and done a lot of research because I’m a fucking Virgo and I like to know things. I like to know what I’m putting in my body because if it’s a dick I’m like, ok. But a mushroom? Wait a minute now! 

Guilty. And we’re light years away from shrooms dipped in ranch in high school. What were we even doing?

I feel like it’s a great space to get into after your brain is developed and you’re an adult. Being experimental with something that can provide a real holistic and honest experience, that would add to your life. With psilocybin, your feet are on the ground. You’re just allowing your mind to pixelate a little. You’re allowing your mind to unravel those tethered vines that are ancestral, traumatic, and consequential. We have such a hold on ourselves. We’re functioning from a place of survival and most of us have a story that has a traumatic experience or event that we haven’t fully healed from. Although we’re able to navigate life beyond that, it doesn’t mean that the effects of it haven’t been detrimental. Emotional stress causes physical stress in our bodies, and mushrooms are the key to healing from our emotional Pandora’s box. That’s what I truly believe, and that’s just from a microdosing experience. I haven’t gone fully into the void, but I am for my 40th birthday this year. I wanted to make it special and be with certain people who have helped me through the hardest times of my life. I got a whole bunch of shrooms, I got a whole bunch of avocados, and I got a whole bunch of teddy bears. We’re hoping for the best.

Wait, is that a thing to have avocados and teddy bears?

Bitch, I don’t know! But they’re all mushy and soft and that’s what I need to hold on to! I need healthy fats! This is my journey!

Follow Jessimae Peluso on Instagram.

The post Unlike Rose in Titanic, Shrooms Offered Comedian Jessimae Peluso a Door appeared first on High Times.

Comedian Brian Simpson Doesn’t Want To Kill It

Brian Simpson had a unique journey to the stage: He was a foster child and served in the Marine Corps. Over ten years ago, he attended a comedy show in San Diego that was so bad it convinced him to give it a go.

Now, the host of the podcast BS with Brian Simpson is delivering tightly structured, hilarious sets on his Short Wide Neck Tour. He finds fresh angles in the familiar. Recently, Simpson told us about how he crafts his material and how to raise the bar for yourself.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

When did you do your first gig?

I did my first standup comedy in February 2011. It first became an idea for me when all my friends and shit started telling me that I was funny all of a sudden. So I started learning that I could make people laugh when I was complaining about stuff.

How different was your material back in 2011? Or was it pretty similar to now?

I mean the first joke I ever wrote, I still use, but most of it was… It wasn’t garbage, but it was just basic. Everybody starts out with jokes about fucking, and pissing, and shitting, because that’s the most relatable subject. It’s just bodily functions. I think everybody starts out kind of in that vein, or you try to be an edge-lord, and say, “The Holocaust didn’t happen,” or something stupid like that. I was the guy that was doing basic shit.

What were some of the first clubs you performed at?

Well, it was two places, really. One was called the Mad House Comedy Club in San Diego. And this other place was called Queen Bee’s Art and Cultural Center, and they had an open mic there once a week. Those are my two main places where I first started at. I got the most stage time in those places, so that’s where I put most of my time in.

Were they good experiences?

As good as they can be. Yeah. I mean, what experience is all good? I guess that’s what makes you a comedian. I look at any experience and tell you what’s fucked up about it. I’ll be at a wedding, just scowling: “Oh, this is such a waste of money.”

[Laughs] Do you still feel that way?

Yeah. I’m not a big fan of pageantry, or things just for show. They just get under my skin so bad. I don’t want to be in a parade. I don’t want to be at any kind of ceremony if I can help it.

You look very comfortable on a stage in front of a crowd.

Oh, yeah. See, that’s different though. Being in front of a crowd and being in the crowd are two different things. Being in front of the crowd is only scary if you don’t know what you’re doing. But being in a crowd is scary all the time. Anything can go wrong. Maybe that’s not a reasonable fear. It might just be crippling social anxiety.

You have a great 30 minute set in [Netflix’s] The Standups Season 3. How’d you prepare?

I think I might have run the set maybe 20 times. But in truth, it was more than that because at first I was running an hour, and I found out it was 30 minutes. And so, it was just a half hour of that, and deciding what comes in and goes out. All of those little meticulous things, which you don’t really have to do. Some people wing it, but it makes me feel comfortable because it’s absolutely the thing that I’m not lazy about. I’ll do all the little tricks and measuring, and recording, and whiteboard, and all of these things to try to make it better. Oh, and weed.

How does weed help when you’re writing?

Well, what happens is when I’m trying to joke for the first time, I like to be high. I don’t like to be high on stage a lot of times, but when I’m trying a joke for the first time, I like to be high. For some reason it just puts you in that creative headspace. You do that on stage with something with a structure to it, and your mind just goes places. And that’s what you need.

You need the tension of the moment and your mind going places that it doesn’t normally go, bam. Because it’s like once you have an idea, you try to find all the angles. You know what I’m saying? It’s like a video game. Some of those angles are hidden behind the weed key. Some of those, you need the mushroom key to unlock. So when it’s all said and done, I try to do every joke in every mindset, to see what I left on the bone.

Needing “the tension of the moment,” that’s a nice way to describe overthinking or paranoia.

Oh, yeah. You know, that mentality has helped me. Edibles used to knock me on my ass. Or I would get so high and just wish I wasn’t that high. But then knowing that, “Oh, this is just me overthinking being high. I’m okay.” You know what I mean?

Yeah. Usually I also try to say to myself, “Things will be okay.”

Yeah, yeah. Or I listen to music. It gives me something to focus on, other than how high I am. Yeah, it’s the best.

You said you don’t perform much while high, right?

Oh, well I do, but only when I’m doing new stuff. The thing is I don’t mind being high on stage in other circumstances, and I’ve certainly done it. But what I hate is if I show up high and go up on stage, that’s fine, but I won’t get high before I go on stage, because what happens is if it kicks in while you’re on stage, it throws all the energy off. It’s almost like your brain’s clicking into another mode, but that split second between the modes, it’s like a hard reset.

I think you feel it more because when you’re on stage, your adrenaline is pumping so high. Even if you’re chill, your adrenaline is up. And so, I think you just feel that weed hit different, and it just stops everything for just a split second, but the crowd can tell. They’re like, “Something’s up.” This is just me. I don’t know about everybody else. But when the weed hit me on stage, I have a problem. If I’m already high before I go up, that’s perfectly fine.

It’s funny you said how with comedy, it’s the one thing you’re not lazy at, but I find that ironic considering your past in the Marine Corps. I imagine that requires an incredible amount of discipline and hard work.

No.

No?

It’s just like anything else. It requires an incredible amount of discipline and hard work to be good at it, not to be there. It takes a minimum amount of work to be there. It takes a lot of work to excel.

That’s a very good distinction. Did you get a lot of material from your days in the Marines?

No. Well, no, that’s not true. Yeah, I would just say the way I see the world was very shaped by that experience. And so a lot of my observations of… All the things I know about white people, I learned in the military. I didn’t necessarily write that joke back then though. It’s not even really in a military setting. I guess it has to be because I set it up that way.

You mentioned using chalkboards, and just really nailing the structure … When do you know the structure’s just right for a set, like for the The Standups set?

Oh, see, I didn’t nail it though.

Why not?

That’s why I can’t even watch it. I can’t even watch it. No man, well, I left a lot of pet words in there, a lot of ums and uhs and mm-hmm. Would’ve been perfect. There were probably 27 of them. That keeps it from being perfect. I mean, perfectly as I want it.

Do you always feel that way after you perform, thinking about what maybe didn’t work instead of what did work?

It’s torture. Yeah, I think a lot of comics think that way too. It’s not good. I think it makes it difficult to enjoy your victories, because your mind is so used to going there. Even after you triumph, your mind is used to going, “Right. Okay. Well, what was fucked up about it?”

Have you ever walked off stage and thought, “That went as good as it could have gone”? Do you ever feel that way?

Oh, yeah, yeah. I felt that before, that’s rare though. That’s rare. People like to throw around the term “killing” and “destroying” a lot, but that’s so rare. Even the best in the world don’t fucking kill, don’t destroy every set. You know what I mean? It might be more often for them that they kill, but it’s still, it’s not even more than half. Most comics, we do really, really, really well, but that’s not killing. Killing is everybody’s dead. They done. They laugh so much, they finish.

I know it can be hard to pinpoint, but was there a moment where you thought, this is my voice and this is my style on stage?

I mean, there was a point, but I don’t remember exactly what that moment was. But I remember several times just being like, “Oh man, I leveled up. I leveled up. I just did something I wasn’t capable of doing before.” And see, and that’s the other thing. Killing changes with… Because when you start and you go from no laughs to some chuckles, that feels like killing.

So it’s like the funnier you get, the higher you raise the bar for what’s killing. So that’s why it might feel like you killed, but you didn’t kill. You don’t know that until you go watch somebody actually kill, and you go, “Oh, okay.” Does that ever happen to you? You see a comic that’s so much better than you, that you’re just like, “Oh wow. I thought I was killing it. I got to go back and write.” You know?

Oh, yeah. I’ll think, maybe I’m doing fine, but then I’ll read something fantastic and feel down, like, “Ah, I’m not doing as well as I thought I was.”

No, but you need that. It’s necessary. I mean, that’s why everyone moves here to L.A. or to New York. Once you’re the big dog wherever you at, you need to get the fuck out of there. I’m saying every second you waste around in rooms where you’re the best comic, you’re wasting your time. You need to be around people that make you sharp. And with people every night [that] make you go, “Holy shit. I need to rewrite some shit.” You want that every day, to see somebody that’s better than you.

So, when do you know you’re leveling up exactly? Is it just based on the laughs?

I guess there’s no way to quantify getting better at comedy, but people close to you can tell. “Oh man, you’re better now.” And when you get that … you tell your jokes differently. I mean most of the time it means you’re telling them better, but I’m sure if I listen to that same exact joke with the same exact wording from five years ago, it’ll sound different.

The post Comedian Brian Simpson Doesn’t Want To Kill It appeared first on High Times.

Psychedelic Advocate Facing Charges Calls for Help, Law Reform in New York

Friday, June 10, psychedelic advocate Aaron Genuth was arrested in Ulster County by New York State Police officers. He is facing serious charges for allegedly possessing several psychedelics including LSD, MDMA, ketamine, and psilocybin. Genuth is calling upon the psychedelic community for help.

Genuth’s vehicle was impounded, and beyond the severe charges he’s facing, he also has to deal with mounting legal fees. A GoFundMe was set up to help Genuth handle growing fees and charges, with support from the Hudson Valley Psychedelic Society and Dr. Bronner’s.

Genuth is founder and president of Darkhei Rephua—a Jewish entheogenic nonprofit he founded. Aaron has been advocating for cannabis, psychedelic, and drug policy reform for over 15 years. He also works with Decriminalize Nature New York, the Hudson Valley Psychedelic Society, and has hosted or produced a variety of community events in New York City and upstate New York over the years.

“Ironically, the psychedelics Aaron is being charged with are either legal in clinical settings, scientifically proven to be beneficial medicines, decriminalized in some places, or on the brink of legalization,” his GoFundMe reads. Ketamine, for instance, is FDA-approved in clinical settings, while the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funds psilocybin research. Psychedelics in general are amid a renaissance in the world of psychedelic-assisted therapy.

According to the GoFundMe, Genuth is working with Andrew Kossover of Kossover Law, whose work has included leadership in Bail Reform, Discovery Reform, and reform of the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws.

Friends and associates of Genuth are raising funds to help him A) recover his car and B) get on the road again, covering his initial expenses while he assesses the charges that were filed and legal fees.

Genuth spoke to High Times about his ongoing case and the current situation.

High Times: Should anyone be in jail for psychedelics (and cannabis for that matter)?

Genuth: No. Absolutely nobody should be in jail for psychedelics or cannabis, including me. Cannabis and psychedelic reform and legalization need to prioritize decriminalization and prisoner release and they really haven’t thus far.

Given your work with Hudson Valley Psychedelic Society and Darkhei Rephua, did you have legitimate, educational reasons for having psychedelics?

Yes I did, though I should probably not say much more than that due to the case being active. I will add that there’s no legitimate reason to arrest people for psychedelic or other drug possession.

Tell us what Darkhei Rephua is.

Darkhei Rephua is a 501(c)3 Jewish psychedelic nonprofit that I founded just as the pandemic began. Our focus is on spiritual health and healing that is rooted in community and nature, prioritizing advocacy for psychedelic medicine, culture, and experience. Over the last few years we’ve been hosting gatherings and outreach for New York’s psychedelic and cannabis communities, primarily in NYC and the Catskills. One of the factors that inspired me to found Darkhei was a reaction to the growing positive press around clinical studies and limited research on psychedelics in institutions like Johns Hopkins and NYU. I believe everyone should have access to psychedelic research and healing in the setting that is most optimal for them, including those who feel most comfortable with a medical doctor in a sterile clinical or research environment. I don’t, and I wouldn’t recommend it for most people. I’m concerned that the current representation and media around psychedelics still reinforces the idea that they are dangerous substances that most people shouldn’t be legally allowed to access, produce, or consume. That’s part of the same false narrative around cannabis that still exists—the idea that it should only be medically legal, or only legal if bought through legally regulated outlets, I believe that psychedelics should be represented in an honest and ethical way that first addresses the injustices of criminalization, the class and cost barriers that currently exists, and the fact that humans have been intentionally pursuing spiritual, transcendental, and drug experiences for our entire existence. Institutional researchers shouldn’t have any more legal access to psilocybin than community healers, or anyone capable of cultivating and consuming them. That’s what Darkhei Rephua represents to me, and hopefully to our community.

Tell us about your involvement with Decriminalize Nature New York.

My connection to Decriminalize Nature happened very organically and psychedelically. I was first introduced to the idea and group a week or so before the first initiative passed in Oakland in 2019. I was volunteering at the Queering Psychedelics conference at the table next to them so I had an opportunity to learn a lot about the resolution, and that it was expected to pass, possibly unanimously. This was just after the Denver Psilocybin Initiative had passed and the locally targeted and cultivation focused elements of Decriminalize Nature’s resolution, as well as expanding beyond psilocybin to include all naturally occurring entheogens inspired me to launch it in New York, thinking that we may have a good chance of passing a resolution in one of the progressive towns in the Hudson Valley. I co-launched the group in New York City, which is where I was entirely based at the time. Since the pandemic I’ve been spending most of my time in New York in the Catskills and Hudson Valley, where I joined the founding board of the Hudson Valley Psychedelic Society as director of outreach and policy.

I’ve been a religious and recreational cannabis and psychedelic user for most of my life and I was deeply disappointed with many elements of cannabis ‘legalization’. I spent some time working in and covering cannabis in California just after legalization there in 2018, for publications that include High Times. I’d fallen in love with Northern California’s cannabis community and culture in 2006 or so, ever since my first visit to a pot farm in Humboldt County when I was dragged out west from Brooklyn by hippie friends for my first national Rainbow Gathering. I also worked in the industry around 2013, learning more about the legal and medical markets in California, Colorado, and Washington. When Prop 64 ultimately passed, I watched the cannabis industry quickly transition to a highly taxed, regulated and re-criminalized corporate system. I recognized the Decriminalize Nature model as much more reflective of what many of us wanted and expected to see from cannabis legalization; a complete and permanent end to law enforcement’s ability to arrest or otherwise violently harass us, and the right of all people to cultivate and share plants and fungi. Until we’ve done that, we’re still allowing the perpetuation of the horrific legacies of Anslinger, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, Biden, and their many partners in drug war injustice and mass incarceration.

More recently, our group in New York City has had some disconnects with the national board in Oakland regarding some of their more antagonistic strategies and practices. We and some other local groups have launched a Decrim First coalition and initiative that includes all psychedelics and fights for decriminalization as a necessary first step to reforms like therapeutic and medical access. We’ll be operating under that banner while we work through the internal and external issues currently facing Decriminalize Nature. I’ve also been actively working with the New York Psilocybin Action Committee (NYPAC) to advocate for state level reforms that include decriminalization and cultivation in next year’s legislative session. I’ve also worked continually with Students for Sensible Drug Policy because they’re awesome and maintain the focus on student leadership in ending the war on drugs, which, as they like to remind us, is a war on (some) people.

At NYC’s 2022 Cannabis Parade & Rally at Union Square / Courtesy of Aaron Genuth

What happened on June 10?

I’ll have to be somewhat sensitive about what I say here again, since the case is still active. I was pulled over for an expired inspection sticker. I declined repeatedly to consent to a search, so the officer arrested me for suspicion of DUI due to the smell of cannabis in the car, and searched my car. Long (and possibly incriminating) story short, I was charged with possession of psilocybin, LSD, MDMA, and ketamine. The 98 grams of psilocybin was initially charged as a felony, which would include a mandatory minimum of 3 years in state prison if convicted at trial under New York’s reformed but still draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws. Fortunately, I was able to find and retain a very good and qualified lawyer, through supporters of the Hudson Valley Psychedelic Society. Just as fortunately, the Assistant DA is familiar with some of the positive research on psilocybin as well as the Oregon legalization so she dropped the felony down to a misdemeanor. I’m optimistic that my documented advocacy work and the very well documented benefits and positive research results surrounding all of these psychedelics will lead to a relatively positive resolution. I’ve pointed out many times since my arrest that a person without my network and willingness to fight might be in a much more difficult position, particularly if they are a parent and holding a state regulated license, for example a nurse or teacher. A person in that position might lose custody and their job regardless of the results of the trial, and possibly have permanent negative effects on their life.

Is it frustrating that there are FDA-approved ketamine-assisted therapy treatments, yet the punishments are severe?

Yes, very. It’s just as frustrating to me that ketamine treatments are prohibitively expensive for many, despite the drug being very plentiful and cheap to produce. That’s not to suggest that every practitioner is gouging people, the issue at its root is regulatory; the combination of bad drug and healthcare policy creating a perfect storm of disproportionate harm that targets the poorest and most vulnerable. Ketamine was first granted ‘breakthrough’ status by the FDA in 2013 and there’s clinics and practitioners all over the country legally providing this medicine safely, legally, and therapeutically—often with incredible results for people suffering from Treatment Resistant Depression, severe PTSD, and suicidality. It’s absurd that it’s not accessibly available to everyone who needs it in the middle of an extended national mental health, suicide, overdose, and financial crisis. I personally believe that all psychedelics should be completely covered under a Universal Holistic Healthcare program, along with any other healing medicine or modality.

What are some of the charges you’re facing?

I got paraphernalia charges for a scale and the bags that the mushrooms were in. I also got charged with a DUI, which is the charge I’m most concerned about since it’s completely false, I was absolutely sober and returned from the grocery store at 10:30am. I’m an advocate for drug users, drug possession, and responsible drug use, but not for driving unsafely or unsoberly so I’m going to fight those charges from every angle possible. The paraphernalia charges also shouldn’t exist, and are addressed in a bill that Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal will be introducing in the state legislature next year. I and some others from the Decrim community worked on those and other amendments that were added to the bill that AM Rosenthal has introduced for the last 3 years to deschedule psilocybin and psilocin. We also worked with her team on another bill she’s introducing, to introduce more decriminalized and community based research and openings to treatment.

What can readers do to help right now?

My case is hopefully going in the right direction, but it’s been a very expensive disruption to my life and work. Any contributions to my GoFundMe are deeply appreciated. We have a special offer currently; a limited number of donors giving $54 or more will receive a Dr. Bronner’s Magic All-One Chocolate, which they’ve generously provided and allowed me to offer as an incentive. (The chocolates are delicious and vegan and fair trade but not psychotropic, no weed or mushrooms in them.) For those in or connected to New York; please join the Decrim First coalition and support NYPAC! The quickest route I know of to do that is to DM us or comment on Instagram @DecrimFirst or email us at DecrimFirst@gmail.com.

I also urge all New Yorkers who care and can to actively support the policies represented in AM Rosenthal’s legislation by reaching out to your state representatives to support and co-sponsor it, and to push for local reform. Please connect with us for support in reaching out to local legislators and law enforcement about policy and legislation! We’ve got templates for legislation, outreach materials, and experienced advocates and experts ready to back you up. Written and video recorded testimonials can also be very influential. We believe that New York must take immediate steps to meaningful reform that includes cultivation, decriminalization, and community access, and that it’s possible within the next year.

The post Psychedelic Advocate Facing Charges Calls for Help, Law Reform in New York appeared first on High Times.

Nicole Byer Laughs at Her Own Jokes—and You Can’t Blame Her

Comedian is just one of Nicole Byer’s many gigs. She’s an author, actress, reality show host, and co-hosts four podcasts, including Why Won’t You Date Me? With Nicole Byer. When we spoke with her, mostly about her last special ‘cause it’s great, she talked to us about her experience of building an hour of material, her journey as a comedian, and her favorite joke she’s ever written.

HT: When you put a special out into the world, do you pay much attention to the response?

Byer: I mean, everybody has their own opinion about everything. You hope that the opinions are nice and that people liked it. But there are people in the world who don’t like you. And that’s fine. I think it was like RuPaul, who was like, call me whatever you want as long as you’re talking about me. I’m from that school. Talk about me negatively, positively. Hopefully, there are more positives than negatives.

I think Eddie Murphy had the best response to any criticism, “The check cleared, so it was a success.”

Yeah. Really, say whatever you want. My checks, I’m doing all right. I’m doing enough that I don’t have to talk about you. You know what I’m saying? It’s like, “Yeah. My bank account is nice to look at.”

[Laughs] So, when do you know your hour of material is ready for a special?

Well, for me, personally, I worked backwards with stand-up. So I was doing improv and sketch to begin with. And then I got Girl Code, and then colleges were like, “These college kids fucking love you. Come do stand-up at our fucking schools or whatever.” And I was like, “I need new characters.” And my manager at the time was like, “No, you’re not bringing wigs in a suitcase. No. Learn how to do stand-up.” And I was like, “Oh, okay. I guess I’ll learn.” Then I learned and the first show was at Rutgers and I had to do, I think, they only asked me to do a half hour and I had never done a half hour. I’d done sets that were 10 minutes long. And Emily Heller was there, she’s an accomplished stand-up. She’s so funny. And I was like, “You go last. You headline. You are good.”

And she’s like, “They’re here to see you.” And I was bummed. And then they laughed at some stuff that genuinely wasn’t funny. I was like, “Oh, shit. I think I have a little bit of leeway, because I’m on television.” And then I was like, “But that’s going to wear off. I better learn how to do stand-up.”

I learned how to do stand-up on the road. I’ve been doing it long enough. I was like, “In 2020, I’d like to do a special.” So I was touring, touring, touring, touring, almost every fucking weekend of 2019 going into 2020. And then COVID hit. I had a tape that I was showing people. I was proud of the work. And I was like, “I want to shoot this special.” And then going to do stand-up for eight months. And then the world is different. My material is different. I’m different. So then, I did a deal with Netflix and then was like, “Fuck. I know I’ll have it, but I have to figure out what it is.”

And then I went back out on the road and I’ve been doing outdoor shows in L.A. And then it all came together in this way where it was a celebration of my material that I had worked on for so long and perfected along with some new stuff. And then my new stuff was also peppered with old jokes that I hadn’t done anymore, but fit in this new world.

It was really just exhausting and a fun jigsaw puzzle. It felt good. It felt [like] everything came together the way I wanted it to come together from the opening to the show. I did an encore joke that didn’t make it into the special that went really well at the second show. It was just a really magical thing.

That exhaustion, all that hard work, is why it turned out so well, right?

Mm-hmm. Yeah. And I had fun. The second show was funny because [comedian] Sasheer [Zamata] had seen that show in New York at, I think, Union Hall. She saw the first show and then she was like, “Nicole, the second show, you had so much fucking fun. You were doing shit I hadn’t seen before.” And I was like, “Yeah, because I knew the first show was good enough to be the special.” The second show was like, “Let’s have fun. Let’s have fun.” And then that’s what we used for the special. I think we maybe cut one joke from the first show there. But I don’t think we did. I don’t remember. It was a lot of editing, a lot of back and forth, a lot of notes.

You mentioned an encore joke that was cut. What was that one?

Oh, so it’s a pedophile joke.

Okay.

The premise is why you shouldn’t fuck a kid, because I don’t understand why you want to, but it’s the way I word things that make people really upset. And the joke is two minutes of a rollercoaster and people going, “Oh. Ah.” And then laughing and then getting off court. It’s people getting on and off of a rocking boat.

They’re like, “I feel safe. I don’t feel safe. I feel safe. I don’t feel safe.” [Comedian] Matteo Lane, one of my best friends, and Sasheer were watching in the wings dying and I could hear them. It was just perfect. Again, special because the only people who heard that joke were the people who were in that audience. And the people who were operating the cameras or whatnot. I have a cut of it, but it’s safe with me.

[Laughs] It sounds like a good joke.

It’s my favorite joke I think I’ve ever written. And the best part is, I told Sasheer the premise and a couple of the punchlines while we were in Costa Rica, waiting in the water, the sun was setting and she was like, “I really think you should tell that joke. It’s so funny.” And I said, “You know what? You’re right.” And then I went to Hot Tub, Kristen Schaal and Kurt Braunohler‘s Show at the Virgil. I started the joke and a woman’s audience went, “No.” And I was like, “Oh, they hate it.” And then I tried to keep going and I have never had that reaction to any joke I’ve ever told, people pissed really being like, “I hate it.” And I was like, “Oh, no. God. Sasheer, she told me to tell it.” I threw her right under the bus.

And then she worked with Kristen Schaal on something, Kristen was like, “You told Nicole to tell that horrific joke?” And she was like, “What? She said that?” And then I had to tell her, I was like, “Yeah. I said it when we’re on stage. I’m sorry.” And then Marcella Arguello has a show called Women Crush Wednesdays. I had done the show, got off stage and I was like, “Dang, I forgot to tell my pedophile joke.” She said, “Come back next week and only tell that joke.” And I said, “Okay.”

I went back and I only told that joke and it crushed. I figured out how to tell it. The way I have to tell it is like, “Do you guys want to hear a joke nobody likes?” And everyone’s like, “Yeah, I feel cool.” And I had a Def Jam comedy moment at that show, because a woman in the back was running around screaming. She loved it so much. It’s my favorite joke. It’s so dumb. Maybe it’ll go on to the next one. Probably not. I’ll just have it with me and tell it every now and again.

Do you have some material like that where it’s just like, “Ah, this is just for me or my friends?”

I was trying to write jokes based on memes during other tragedies in the world, and that got pretty dark. Because it was like, “What if the internet was around during other horrific things in the world?” How like some of the COVID memes are really fucking funny, but people died. So it’s like, “What would it be like during slavery or World War II?”

You can have such a fun, playful delivery that only a minute or two later you realize, “Wow, that was dark.”

Then you’re like, “Uh-oh. Whoopsie-daisy.”

Courtesy of Netflix

You have a very good bit on J.K. Rowling. She’s rightfully ridiculed on the internet, but you found a fresh angle.

Thank you. I wrote that joke after I watched that documentary. I was just like, “Wait a minute. This truly sounds like Harry Potter. This is literally nuts.” And then I was looking at the Harry Potter Wikipedia page and the KKK Wikipedia page. And I was like, “This is wild. There are so many similarities.” And then I did that joke [at] The Improv and then an executive from, I think, Universal, was like, “You’re closer than what people think, because people compare it to Nazi Germany or whatever.” And she’s like, “No. It’s closer to the KKK I think than that.” And I was like, “Okay. So I’m on the right track. It’s been confirmed.” I don’t know if she’s actually an executive. It could have been just an audience member fucking with me. But, I mean, yeah. Grand wizards, wizards. Come on now.

I also thought your play on her name [JKKK Rowling] was terrific.

That was during a show. Sometimes you write a joke and it’s solid, and then you start playing with the audience, and then that just rolled off my tongue. And I was like, “I have to remember to say that, that’s funny.”

Do you always write your material down after moments like that?

I have to write everything down. I have ADHD. So the mind is a prison. I’ll say things and then someone will be like, “Repeat what you just said,” and I’ll be like, “Hmm. That’s gone.” So if I say something funny, I’ll try to write it down. I have a little notepad in the shower where I write shower thoughts down. It’s a waterproof pad and a pencil that a friend got me to help me remember stuff.

Say, in the special, what were some of the jokes or bits that maybe took longer than others just to get them right?

Let’s see. What took a minute? The Black Lives Matter joke worked in audiences where there were Black people. And then I went to Portland.

At the Helium Club?

Yeah. And I was like, “Oh.” I love Helium. And there are Black people in Portland and they did come out to see me, but it was a little, “Oh.” I think that’s when I came up with Pack Up Your White Guilt, that was the second show, maybe, people were gasping. I was like, “What the fuck?” And then the Pack Up Your White Guilt came from that. But, yeah, that was the thing where it worked.

And then I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working. And I was like, “Oh, because there’s literal white guilt,” and people who are sitting here looking at me going, “I literally did what she just said. I texted my Black friends to be like, ‘How are you doing? Is the trauma getting to you?’” I was like, “We didn’t need any of that.” And they’re reckoning with it and I’m making fun of them to their face. So, that was a thing I had to figure out.

I’m in Portland right now, and I’ve heard from a few comedians that some audience members here don’t have the best sense of humor about themselves.

Yeah. Especially, when you’re like, “You did this. You know you did this.”

What are some clubs around the country that you love performing at?

The DC Improv is electric. Denver Comedy Works, again, electric. Just so fucking… Every single show I did at those two clubs was like, I can’t even describe to you how good it felt. Also, Helium in Portland is also really great. The time before the last time I was there, I sold out. We had to add two extra shows. I did seven shows that weekend. That was 2019, the end of 2019. I also really like the Wilbur Theater in Boston. Boston goes hard. Boston drinks. Boston’s a great fucking crowd. Also, ironically enough, Oklahoma City. I think it’s a Helium in Oklahoma city. I had the best time there.

I’m from DC, so it’s always nice to hear comedians talk about how great it is performing there.

It’s great. The room is solid. Also, they’re accommodating. I had a sign language interpreter on stage with me during one show who was so fucking hot that I was like, “You are the distraction because of your face, honey. I see that you sign away, but the face, my God.”

[Laughs] Since you started off in sketch and improv, when you’re on stage, do you find yourself going off script quite a bit or do you stick very closely to what you’ve written?

I was touring a ton in 2019, I got a little burnt. So I was like, “We stick to this script. Let me just get through my fucking jokes. Don’t yell at me.” Now, I had a little bit of a break. I’m having more fun. Now, it’s like if you yell something at me, I will talk to you. I will respond. I won’t bug out.

I did a show in Houston where I asked if there was anyone in the audience who would fuck me. And the student was like, “Yes.” And then that derailed the show. And it was just very fun. And I had such a good time. My Houston shows were really great the last time I was there. So I’ve just been having more fun because it’s like, “Why are you doing it? Why are you getting on stage to just perform the same jokes?” No, you need something from them, from the audience and the audience needs something from you. So let’s have fun. Otherwise, stay at home.

I imagine it was a ton of fun roasting the [unruly drunk] white woman on her birthday in Wisconsin, especially since you got to use that story in your special.

Mm-hmm. I mean, that was not fun for her because she did cry. And then I loved it because I really hated Appleton, Wisconsin. I don’t fucking know how to fucking pronounce it. At one point at one of the shows, someone in the audience screamed, “Smile. We can’t see you,” and nobody on that fucking staff did anything. I was livid. I truly walked into the crowd and was like, “What the fuck is wrong with you people?” I ended the show early, because I asked them to stop screaming “nailed it” at me and they would not. In the middle of a joke, it was like, “Nailed it.”

I said, “Fuck all of you, none of you deserve to hear the rest of this joke. I hate it here. Nobody here is nice or good.” And then I literally got off stage. Everyone was like, “Oh, what a poor sport.” And I was like, “Poor sport?” A lot of the people in that crowd were racist and unkind and unruly. I was like, “I am not a substitute teacher. I’m not trying to fucking rally children.” I hate it. I will never go back there.

It’s so strange that some people never learned not to talk to someone when they’re performing or don’t know better.

YouTube killed it because [you] see those videos where it’s “Heckler Owned!” So people are like, “Oh, someone’s going to get owned during this show. And it’s going to end up on YouTube.” Where it’s like, “No. You just shut the fuck up, you’ll hear a really great show.” You’ll go home and you’ll have something nice to talk about.

I did one show, I think, it was the Irvine Improv. I had fun there, too. I told the white woman joke and then this Black woman was like, “It’s my birthday.” And I was like, “Oh, are you trying to prove that Black women could be just as awful as white women?” She’s like, “Yes.” I was like, “Well, you did it. I guess I’ll be nice to you. Happy birthday. How are you?” She’s like, “Good.” I was like, “All right. What do you do for a living since you need this?”

She’s like, “I’m a lawyer.” Oh, my God. It was funny. She just needed it. We were having a nice banter. And then I can’t remember what I said, and it was harsh. And then the whole crowd was like, “You are the bad one, Nicole.” And I was like, “Oh, I’m not going to fucking win them over even though this woman interrupted my show. All right. Here we go.” And then the rest of the show was like, “Are you okay? Do you need more attention?” She’s like, “No, I got it.” I was like, “Okay.”

Being from High Times, I wanted to ask, and I may be wrong, but did you tell Conan O’Brien you quit smoking or were trying?

That wasn’t weed. I think that was a cigarette. I quit smoking cigarettes on January 3rd. I haven’t had one since. So that’s hard.

Congratulations, though.

Thank you. But weed? Weed, I like an edible every now and again, but I don’t smoke as much as I used to. I used to smoke every day in high school. And then in my early 20s, I smoked a ton and ate a lot of edibles. And then sometimes to clear my head I’ll smoke and go for a drive. So I mean, it is a little bit less. She’s still getting a bit stony.

[Laughs] Do edibles ever help with writing material or is that just to relax?

Not at all. You think something’s real funny and then you write it down and you look at it sober and you go, “What the fuck is this? What the fuck is this?”

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