Happy Birthday, Gene George!
(photo by Liezl Estipona)
I grew up with three sisters - never had a brother. In Phoenix, I had a good group of friends, not only folks I went to school with or worked with, but the people I met through the music, comedy, and art scenes. I got to form relationships with people who toured through Arizona. When I moved to California, I was arriving to a number of wonderful individuals, but the sum of which I could count on one hand. I was lucky that my first working experiences were with good people that I still keep in touch with, despite how our careers have moved us in different directions.
I started posting on a comedy scene board, which I also referred to when I was looking for things to do, having just arrived to Los Angeles. My free time and energy is pretty devoted now to producing the podcast, my writing, and my involvement in the zine community, but I used to frequent the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Hollywood quite often. On many occasions, I snagged highly sought tickets for a show called Comedy Death Ray, a weekly showcase where you could see the best comedians doing new work for all of $5 (it eventually morphed into what you might know as “Comedy Bang Bang,” which started as a podcast spinoff of the standup night, and then became an IFC television show.
One night, I had obtained tickets to CDR, but I had other obligations which prevented me from attending. I logged into the comedy message board and offered the tickets up. That led to me meeting Gene George for the first time outside UCB. I had got to know him and his sense of humor through the board, so it was neat to finally meet him in person. It led to us starting to attend some UCB shows together.
If you listen to our podcast, you’ve probably heard that story a few times, and you know how these hangouts led to our creative collaboration, and how that has resulted in the chat show you have hopefully loved and enjoyed for the last three and a half years. With all our talk about creative works and surviving in L.A., our riffs on whatever obsession I’m fixated on or annoyance that has Gene grumbling, and enthusiasm for the artists we love and bring onto the show, there’s very little room in any given episode for sentiment or sincere personal statements - we are not Oprah Winfrey (we would like her money, though, if anyone is looking to invest in “Shakeytown TV”). And it’s no secret that as Gene’s family has expanded and his career away from the podcast has progressed, his appearances on the show have become more rare, to the point I think he’s going to demand special Sir Alec Guinness cameo billing status. Shakeytown Radio has become more of a DIY “California’s Gold,” with me as your punk rock Huell Howser (am I flattering myself? or not giving Huell enough credit for having been pretty punk rock himself?), live on the scene of all the great events that L.A. has to offer.
So what I haven’t got to share on mic, I’d like to write here now…
It’s harder making new friends when you’re an adult. It can be really hard when you move to a new place to get comfortable and find your new group of friends. When it comes to Gene, I didn’t only get a creative partner, a buddy to pal around with, but I finally got a brother. When you tune into the podcast, you hear us laughing, you hear us asking our guests questions. You don’t hear the late nights where I’ve poured my heart out to Gene, all my fears and insecurities, and he’s put things into perspective for me. You’ve heard our schtick, with Gene venting or me making dumb puns for him to sigh at. You haven’t heard all the ways he has encouraged me for the good things I want to do, or the understanding and nonjudgmental insight he has given when I feel like I’m faltering.
Gene is a great dad and a great husband (with those awesome kids and wife, he better be, right?), a booster for the creative community in Los Angeles, a sharp dude who can teach you all sorts of things about a wild variety of topics, and a kind soul with a lot of love in his heart.
I am grateful for everything that has happened in the last few years, how this city has become my home. If Gene and I hadn’t met, I don’t know where I would be right now. We took a chance on this enterprise, and it has yielded so many rewards. But aside from all that, I am just happy that Gene is somebody in my life.
Happy 44th, Gene… here is to 88 years more! (Assuming that some “Mad Max” scenario doesn’t disrupt things at some point between now and 2091.)