Fear and Loathing in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

(I don't remember taking any of these photos.)

(I don't remember taking any of these photos.)

My head throbbed as I squinted at the clock. It was 11:20am. I'd just realised I'd left my drivers license in Manhattan, and I had to pick up a rental car 20 minutes ago...

 

One week earlier...

 

My email blinked with a new email from my agent asking if I was available to work the weekend of the 14th. I promptly replied with all the fervour of a drugged up pet store puppy. Upon confirmation, I was told I'd be performing two shows at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

I packed my bags and booked a train to Philly. To my surprise, the wife was keen to join me this time around. Something to do with 'all those hookers' phone numbers you brought back with you last time.'

We arrived in Philadelphia and immediately hit up our good pals, Josh and Steph; Aussie expat film-makers who were scouting for a film that day.

Stomping around marshes, rivers and the cobbled streets of Manayunk, I copped a hefty eyeful of outter-suburban Philly. The Director insisted I read for the lead, but my dramatic acting is about as good as my dramatic dancing. (It's a situation.)

Check out Oliver Twist over here.

Check out Oliver Twist over here.

We wrapped up and headed back to the city for some good old-fashioned British pub grub and booze at The Dandelion. Joining us was the supremely clever and most dapper cartoonist/illustrator/writer Nick Galifiniakis.

Nick insisted on making me comfortable by dressing like an 18th Century British convict who stole a loaf of bread and got shipped off to Australia.

This was the one evening Nick had been out of his drawing-hole for months, having been working on a film for Blue Sky Studios. He regaled us with stories of sleep-deprivation and unbridled enthusiasm for a project we didn't get to find out about courtesy of a tightly-woven NDA. Keep an eye out for it though. He's a clever nut.

(Nick will also be taking over hosting duties at this year's Reuben Awards in Portland this May, allowing Tom Gammill and I to drink copious volumes of whiskey without worrying about the band missing a sound cue.)

After a preliminary nosh, we ambled over to Parc; the premier French eatery opposite Rittenhouse Square. We were joined by a couple of other friends so were now a noise to be dealt with.

Between the third Negroni, Le canard and the insane stories being flipped across the table the night wore on to the point where there was no other place to go but a live piano-karaoke-gay bar around the corner.

We walked in and Sophie immediately hugged and kissed her new favourite invention: A piano with a bar built into it.

 

Her two favourite things; together at last. A Piano/bar.

Her two favourite things; together at last. A Piano/bar.

The early morning crept closer as Sophie wowed the crowds, singing standards and musical theatre numbers before I was asked to leave for grabbing the mic and bellowing "The President is a potato!"

That, and I'd drawn a goofy-looking caricature of one of the people at the bar and he turned out to be the owner.

 

 (not my fingernails)

 (not my fingernails)

The next morning I woke with a start as I realised we had a bus to catch and not a lot of time to catch it. We skipped over to Cafe Olé for two gut-bendingly strong espressos, said goodbye to our Aussie compatriots and clambered on a bus to make the 2.5 hour journey to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

We passed through several towns I'd never heard of, like Batsville, Jesusland and a town named after Chuck Norris.

norristown pennsylvania

 

We Ubered from the bus station to the glorious Mohegan Sun casino and resort. Upon arrival, we were met with a cacophony of wondrous smells, noises and restaurants of vastly varying repute. And fat people on scooters.

Lots of fat people on scooters.

We checked into the room and I immediately started stressing out about my set for tonight. I had a 30 minute feature spot and I had to figure out which material was going to be best for this scooter-bound audience. Also I had to remember the order the jokes were in. I'm not usually good at that.

We napped, changed and headed down to the show room to find we were early, and had a bar tab. Excellent.

The host asked the crowd if they were excited to see me. The vast vacuum of space immediately found a competitor.

There was a couple to the right of stage who were on a date, an old couple to the left who couldn't hear anything and a sea of people who all voted Trump/Pence.
This was going to be a challenging one.

I launched into my set telling the audience I feel like I got to America at a strange time; that I'd seen the brochure of "Hope! Change! Obama!" and arrived to a billboard that said "Grab 'em by the pussy."

It was a huge mistake, but according to my parents, so was I, so I ploughed ahead.

I don't know if you've ever heard the sound of two hundred arms crossing at once, but it makes your stomach sink through your arsehole quicker than a triple espresso with a side of Imodium.

I fought hard to win them back, which took a good 15 of the 30 minutes.

Sophie was in the audience, drinking heavily to tolerate having to listen to my whole set of jokes she's heard more than anyone. She made notes. Lots of notes.

I wandered off stage and wandered past the glum herd of Blackjack-players for a nightcap at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse; one of the 8 Grammatical Wonders of the World.

mohegan sun casino gaming floor wilkes barre

 

We knocked back a few whiskeys and wandered back to the room. On the way, however, was ONE more bar where Soph and I convinced ourselves we should have ONE more drink. ONE.

An old, large man in a big coat sidled up to me while Sophie was in the bathroom and apropos of nothing, said "You seen Super Mario Brothers the Movie?"

I stared blankly ahead and tried to remember if I'd packed my pocket knife.

He asked again, "Hey! You seen the Super Mario Brother Movie?"
I turned and responded, "Hi. Is that the one with Dennis Hopper as King Koopa?"

"YES!" he exclaimed excitedly, clapping his hands and reaching into his coat.

I was about to call for security until I saw what he was pulling from his jacket...

A trading card of him as a Scapelli bodyguard from the Super Mario Brothers film. Circa 1993. I was too impressed.

I don't remember what happened next, but I woke up with a throbbing head and a strip of photos of Sophie and I clearly having a capital time. (See above.)

I sat up in a panic as I realised I'd forgotten to bring my drivers license with me... and I'd booked a rental car for 20 minutes ago. They closed early on Sunday, so I had to find a way to convince them to let me take the car. But first... I had to figure out how to get there.