I was in Telluride, Colorado, a few weeks ago for a comedy festival. It was my first time performing in Colorado since the whole state cooled it out and legalized marijuana. I didn’t even think about it before I left for the trip; instead, I spent much of my pre-trip time visualizing the ride in the 10-seater prop plane I’d be taking from Los Angeles to Tom Cruise’s mountain hideaway city. I imagined our plane flying through the rainy opening shots of the TaleSpin theme song with biplanes full of humanoid tigers in pursuit, and I imagined us crashing. The whole week before I left, I pushed it extra hard onstage. That way, if we went down, I’d La Bamba outta this world. “Oh, we saw one of her last shows,” people would say. “Such a talent! Right on the cusp of success! And she had a great selection of boots!”
I don’t ski because I am from Chicago and never learned how. Where would you learn? It’s the flattest city. It’s as if the Sears Tower—not Willis Tower, Sears—were constructed specifically as a “fuck you” to other cities with mesas, hills, or cliffs. “We built a thing taller than that thing your city came with!” we shout, hot dogs in hand, taking a series of elevators to go stand on a glass shelf and gaze out at O’Hare Airport.
So, while the rest of the comics in town for the festival slooshed their way down the slopes, I walked the town, checking out ski cabins and marveling at snowboard chicks. I took myself out for breakfast, which I always think is a classy move. Few things create my desired level of mystery quite like sitting alone in a diner while thumbing through the local newspaper and wearing sunglasses indoors.
Colorado’s pot shops don’t just sell smokable weed; they’ve got candy and brownies and such as well. The local paper had a cover story on such edibles. Turns out some folks have been popping into a shop, buying a drug brownie, really going for it and eating the whole thing and then showing up at the emergency room so high they think they are dying. I was particularly struck by the story’s quote from an ER doctor saying, “We’ve seen a lot of people in their 60s.” Those poor, hip 60-year-olds. How terrible to have lived a life where you can afford to hang in Telluride, only to worry you have brownied yourself to death. “Get me to a tiny plane!” they must think. “And then crash that plane so I can go out with some decency!”
The first time I drank, I really went for it. I was in England, in Stratford-Upon-Avon, with my high school class. I went to a pretty ridiculous high school, so thanks for that, mom and dad. Hope you didn’t spend your retirement savings having me educated by some monks and nuns, because I don’t have any money saved either! The drinking age in England is 18, and I was a play-by-the-rules kid. I didn’t have a fake ID, I didn’t sneak booze from my older sister, and I didn’t really go to drinking parties. I was the mascot of my high school’s football team (a giant red bird), and I was on student council and stuff. In the U.K., I felt like I could finally try alcohol. It was legal! I could be good and be boozy!
So there I was in Shakespeare’s hometown, just a few days after having my first real sip of alcohol, challenging one of the biggest party girls in my class to a hard-cider chugging contest and winning. I am very competitive. I celebrated the win by high-fiving the ceiling. Then I drank three more hard ciders, two rum and cokes, and several bottles of some orange-flavored swill called Hooper’s Hooch. I remember smoking a cigar, buying my English teacher a drink, and joyfully screaming my guts out. Then I remember puking my guts out. Pesto. All over my hotel room. Puked with fervor while my religion teacher held my hair and I sobbed, asking him to please not dock my overall grade due to immorality. At 18, that behavior actually makes you a bit of a hero. I boarded our tour bus the next morning to applause from my fellow students. As I paid the cleanup fee at the hotel, even my religion teacher seemed to be winking at me. “Way to enter on top, kid,” he seemed to say. Our group went to tour some castle that day. Everyone else did, anyway. I lay on a bench outside the castle, my head on the belly of this monk who taught biology, as brutally hungover as any giant bird mascot has ever been. I still can’t eat pesto.
I thought on my monk/belly/barf day while getting prepped for the night’s show in Telluride. Sure, I was the only person in town not up for ski danger, but I have faced nightmares and lived. And so the show began. I’d been onstage for about 10 minutes when I heard someone cry out, “He jumped!” This was in a festival venue with a second floor balcony. It took an additional 10 minutes of horror to suss out that, no, a buddy hadn’t leapt off the balcony. I’m really thankful for that. Stand-up might have fallen into pesto’s “never again” category if I’d been onstage during a balcony leap.
Instead, a dude in 20s had eaten a whole brownie, and in doing so, really took the heat off those 60-year-olds. For me and the rest of the audience and comics, a show was going on. For this gent, the force of 50 joints instantaneously slammed into his bod. With such a massive rush of THC, I can only assume he suddenly had his own urge to high-five the ceiling, because he jumped three rows forward from his seat on the floor of the theater and landed on some woman’s head. There he stayed, reclining on a stranger who was not a monk and who did not teach biology, until he was removed by theater security. Even his parting words were amazing. Carried on by his arms and legs, the brownie-eater called out in very clear and distinct words, “I am Saddam Hussein!” He had to be restrained, arrested, and hospitalized. His mom had to be called. I heard that it might have been his first experience with marijuana. He started full brownie. Way to enter on top, kid.
It didn’t seem like brownie boy will have any lasting negative health effects. Maybe they gave him some Valium to calm him down or utilized the best treatment for too much pot: sitting in the corner and staring. Maybe they brought in a monk to sit next to him in that corner. Did he achieve hero status? On the one hand, he had a massive public breakdown, crushed a lady, racked up a big ol’ hospital bill, and will have to go to court. On the other hand, he took his moment to shine and used it to claim to be a deceased and widely hated dictator. There’s style in that. Of course, there is also the distinct possibility that Saddam Hussein is not dead, but instead has taken on some deep, deep cover by reversing his aging process and hiding out in Colorado. But I don’t think that’s the case.
My parting words on this are simple: If you’re in Colorado and you get the urge to eat a whole brownie, go to a bakery and buy a non-weed brownie. Next, go to a pot shop and buy a weed brownie. Crumble the weed brownie between your fingers and then sprinkle it along the center of the non-weed brownie. Roll up the non-weed brownie with the weed brownie in the middle until you’ve made a sort of brownie joint. Now eat the brownie joint. See? Just the right amount high. Remember this recipe and that you heard it here first, if ever my plane should go down. I’d like to exit on top as well.