I had the great pleasure of being able to see each of Marc Maron’s shows at Zanies in Nashville this last week and pal around with him and fellow comic Ryan Singer for a bit. Among other places, I took them to Brown’s Diner, Athens Greek Family Restaurant, and Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack. All three are fantastic places to eat and talk and enjoy Nashville at it’s best and worst.
Prince’s is a Nashville landmark. I don’t know how long it’s been there, but I’ve heard a girl my age say her grandma worked there when she was young. I love taking people there. I’m a fan of way-too-hot food and it just doesn’t get any hotter than this. There is also a huge entertainment factor to visiting Prince’s. This restaurant is blacker than a thousand midnights – there’s a barbershop next door.. privatized (although questionably professional) security.. cops circling the place.. and a lot of guys just hanging out on the sidewalk. The only way Prince’s could be blacker is if they had pictures of Malcolm X on the wall.
An audience member brought Marc some of their chicken to the show Thursday night, and after eating a few bites he decided he needed to try it hot and fresh. After the late show Friday, we loaded up the car and drove over to 123 Ewing Drive. Marc, Ryan and I were joined by Nashville comics John Thornton Jr., Gary Fletcher and Sean Parrott.. none of whom chose to eat (was this wisdom? or were they just chicken shit?). Ryan doesn’t eat meat but decided to on this special occasion. Ryan is NOT a pussy. I wish I could say the same for my friends John, Gary and Sean.. but I can’t. Vaginas, every one.
Marc talked about our visit to Prince’s Saturday morning when he recorded the intro to episode 209 of his WTF podcast – and at both shows Saturday night in Nashville. By the second show he had developed a good, solid chunk of material that fits nicely into a near-death-experiences theme in his current act. I hope he keeps it in.
On WTF, he tells an early version of the story of our adventure at Prince’s.. and it’s pretty accurate.. but one thing he got wrong was when he said I told him, “They don’t let white people order the extra hot.” Marc may have mis-heard or may be exaggerating for comic effect.. either way, let me ruin it. Here’s what I told him:
The first time I ordered the Extra Hot, the woman at the counter gave me this look and said, “Have you eaten here before?” and I said, “Yes, Ma’am.. I know what I’m getting into.” She raised her brow and turned her head a little saying, “OooooooKkaaaay..” as if she had done her due diligence warning me and was not responsible for what was about to happen to my butt-hole. I do think that by ordering Medium, you’re showing them respect. When you walk in and order Extra Hot, they’re going to try to hurt you.. and they will not fail.
I have eaten the Extra Hot.. but NOT THERE. I get it TO GO, so they don’t get to watch me cry while I eat. I recommend people order the Medium, because that’s still pretty damn hot. “Hot” is certainly hot enough.. and you’ve got nothing to prove by ordering Extra Hot. There’s no need to be a hero.
Marc and I ate “Hot.” I drank an iced tea and then refilled that container at least four times with water before we left the restaurant. I turned bright red and started hiccuping and developed a flop-sweat.. but I knew what I was getting into. At some point, Marc said something to the effect of, “what have I done?” or maybe the look on his face said that to me. The look in his eyes was unmistakable – he looked like a wounded animal. I haven’t seen worry and regret like that since my acid trip days.. I felt like I was in the Cool Down Tent trying to talk him down from a bad trip. He went thru a giant water pretty quickly and I almost didn’t bother asking if he wanted a refill.
We ate at about 1 or 1:30 a.m. and then pretty much went home. At 3 a.m. I woke up on my couch and felt like I was about to give birth to a 20-pound baby made of fire. I was hoping that I was going to puke instead. I wouldn’t know what to do with a fire baby. I was sweating profusely and my stomach felt like it was splitting atoms. I popped some antacid tablets, which felt like throwing ice cubes into a volcano. I tried to drink water but I was in so much pain I couldn’t swallow more than a mouth full. Excruciating, unbearable pain. My pained wailing made my dog so upset that HE started to cry. This fit lasted about 12 minutes and then I was a feeling good enough to drink some water and I went back to sleep.
At 4 a.m. I woke up suddenly with terrible pain again and scrambled as fast as I could to the bathroom. I almost made it on time. Almost was not close enough. I vomited up the spiciest chicken available to man – in it’s liquid, semi-digested form – and it was terrible.. but I felt better. I brushed my teeth and cleaned up the mess and went back to bed. I was weak, but I was ok.
I woke up the next day with a huge headache.. and I didn’t drink any booze that night. I didn’t know a hot chicken hangover was even possible, but Prince’s.. you did it. I went to meet up with Ryan, Marc, John, Gary and James Austin Johnson on 12th Avenue South. Marc just smiled when he saw me and asked how I was feeling. We exchanged horror stories and laughed at our common pain. It was like we’d been to war and could now sit at the VFW and laugh about it.
I was looking forward to meeting Marc. This year, the people who run the Montreal festival asked Mr. Maron to give the Keynote Address at the 2011 Just For Laughs Comedy Conference. Among other things he said, “When I was kid watching comedians on TV and listening to their records they were the only ones that could make it all seem okay. They seemed to cut through the bullshit and disarm fears and horror by being clever and funny. I don’t think I could have survived my childhood without watching standup comics. When I started doing comedy I didn’t understand show business. I just wanted to be a comedian.”
The same goes for me.. except one of the comedians I was watching was Marc Maron. I remember seeing him on David Letterman’s old NBC show, on Comedy Central when that was a brand new channel, on Late Night with Conan O’Brien at least 40-something times.. he was one of the guys that made ME want to do comedy. He was doing more than just telling jokes. I loved the way Marc seemed to be emotionally invested in what he was saying – disarming the demons that haunted him by laughing about it.
If you’ve seen my act lately, you know that this year I declared bankruptcy; got shingles; face foreclosure on my home; I got scabies; and instead of moving to NYC like we planned, my wife left me and that left me with an empty schedule and few bookings. It’s been a little rough.
On WTF #209, Marc mentioned me saying, “Chad Riden, good guy. Been thru a lot. His heart’s heavy. World’s weighing on Chad. Weighs heavy on Chad. He’s got a burden.. but he’s a funny guy. That burden makes him funny.” Which is probably the nicest way of saying I’m a miserable piece of shit who then insists on telling every audience all about it.
It was fantastic to meet Maron and hang out. I think it would have been a very rough week for me if I didn’t have him and Ryan Singer around to make me laugh constantly. They’re doing the big work.
Marc was very nice to mention me on his show and I appreciate it. Just a couple weeks ago I was name-checked on WTF episode 204 by Doug Stanhope. This is probably the best exposure I’ve gotten so far. Can I now use WTF as a credit? No? Shit.