Standup comedy returns to the Side Door on Friday; Almost as funny as a political debate!

Stand-up comedy returns to the Side Door this Friday. Ward Smith, an actor and comic, has put together almost a dozen shows at the Side Door and they are audience favorites.

The last “Ward Smith and Friends” show sold out, so don’t wait too late to get tickets for this one. it’s in our intimate Side Door Cabaret. For tickets and info, follow this link, or call the box office at 727 822-3590.

I chatted with Ward this week about the comics he’s bringing and how national politics is now officially funnier than actual comedians.

PalladiumPaul: You’ve got three other comics joining you at the Side Door this Friday. Who are they? Are they funny?

Ward Smith

Ward Smith

Ward Smith: The better be! Here’s the lineup:

Amanda Jordan- Voted “Best Up and Coming Comedian of Tampa Bay” by Creative Loafing. My second time working with her and I hear she’s swearing off boobs!

Aniria- She’s a fiery Latina who also produces and tours with an all-girl stand-up comedy troupe called The Funny Diva Show and she just won Best Screenplay at the St. Pete Comedy Film Festival for her short film 1-800-Call-A-Cougar.

Alan Schubowsky – This is his second time at the Side Door and one of my favs. Old school style and having him perform is better than seeing him sell black market Viagra in the alley.

PalladiumPaul: You’ve brought a really diverse lineup of comedians to the Side Door over the past year or so. I didn’t realize there were so many comics in this region.

Ward: There really is (a scene here) and the Tampa bay area has been a fertile breeding ground for regional and national acts for over 20 years.

PalladiumPaul: Given how absurd and hilarious the presidential race is at this point, do we really need comedians anymore?

Ward: HA! I tried to get Trump, Clinton and Sanders for this gig, but they were booked. Maybe we can get ’em in before November — I think they’re all hilarious.

PalladiumPaul: How is the Side Door as a room for stand-up? I loved one of the comics who joked that he was reduced to playing in a church basement.

Ward: Indeed. All jokes aside – the Side door is a GREAT room to play not a bad seat in the house, great sound and the staff is fantastic. It’s intimate like a comedy club without being one.

PalladiumPaul: One final Question

Ward: Ask me anything

PalladiumPaul: Have you seen my green socks?

Ward: Yes, the opened for the Betty Fox Band and were a hit.

PalladiumPaul: No. I meant my actual green socks.

Ward: Just the ONE- the other might be in Sock Heaven.

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Lightning edges Blackhawks for seventh consecutive victory

No, it wasn’t the Stanley Cup finals.

For a game in late January, however, it wasn’t bad.

The Tampa Bay Lightning won its seventh game in a row Thursday night, squeezing off the Chicago Blackhawks in a 2-1 game. Chicago, the defending Stanley Cup champions, had only 18 shots on the night as their 12-game winning streak ended.

“One streak was ending tonight, and I’m glad it was theirs,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “I’d trade what happened tonight for what happened last year, but this is this year.”

The Blackhawks scored 43 seconds into the game when Artem Anisimov scored his 17th goal. But later in the period, Anton Stralman deflected a shot from teammate Victor Hedman into the net.

Nikita Kucherov, who has been blistering as of late, broke the tie with a power play goal at 16:39 of the second period.

“We didn’t think it was possible, but I think he’s raised his game from last year,” forward Ryan Callahan said of Kucherov, who is now tied with Steven Stamkos with 20 goals on the season.

Ben Bishop shut out Chicago for the game’s last 59:17 seconds, stopping 17 of 18 shots. The Blackhawks did close out with nine shots in the third.

“This might have been our best game all season. We played for 60 minutes, and we got rewarded for it,” said Stralman. “This is the way we want to play honestly. This is how we can play, and it hasn’t always been there. But there are still a lot of games left, and, if we play like this, I think we will be fine.”

The Lightning plays at the Florida Panthers Saturday night in an effort to tie the longest winning streak of their history.

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Craig Pittman’s go-to quote against hunting in state parks? An accused puppy killer

Everyone loves puppies. Well, almost everyone.

Apparently not Albert Gregory, the former Florida Department of Environmental Protection park planner and twice-referenced expert source for Tampa Bay Times environmental reporter Craig Pittman.

First, some background.

Last year, DEP chief Jon Steverson created a maelstrom when he suggested revising state park management plans at several of Florida’s 174 State Parks. Steverson’s comments were interpreted (by some) as sanctioning the expansion of grazing, logging, and other revenue-generating activities — which could also include hunting.

Cue the indignant outrage from thousands of angry residents, not least of which Pittman.

“The boom of gunfire could begin echoing through Florida’s award-winning parks system by December under a Department of Environmental Protection plan,” he decried.

Pittman did say documents obtained by the Times did not specify which of the state parks might be “suitable spots for hunters to shoot deer, turkey, squirrel, rabbit, otter, bobcat, raccoons, beavers, quail, dove, feral hogs, coyotes and — if the state wildlife commission approves a hunting season this month — bear.”

What, not puppies? Interestingly, they were not on Pittman’s list.

Nevertheless, as a source for Pittman’s two articles on the subject (June 12 and November 7), the intrepid reporter quotes Gregory, a former parks planning chief who retired from the DEP after more than 30 years.

“Of all the activities being contemplated,” Gregory told Pittman, “hunting is ‘fundamentally incompatible with the purpose’ of state parks.”

The bottom line – according to Pittman, Gregory, and environmentalists – is that it’s not a good idea to hunt certain animals in state parks.

What about puppies? As dictated by logic, that would be bad too, right?

Perhaps not, in the eyes of Albert Gregory.

You see, in 1998, Gregory and his wife Beth had turned themselves in for arrest in Leon County, each on two counts of Cruelty to Animals. More specifically, the couple was accused of executing a pair of Dachshunds (one successfully) belonging to the parents of Ms. Melita Stone.

According to the (graphic) arrest report, Stone’s parents, Raleigh “Max “ and Margaret Tillman, were visiting Florida from Georgia on May 25 for Memorial Day. They had brought along an eight-year-old female named Cricket and her six-month-old puppy, Lady. Both dogs were secured inside the fenced back yard at Ms. Stone’s home. Around 5 p.m., Max Tillman unleashed the older Dachshund so the two could relieve themselves before the return trip to Georgia. Neither Cricket nor Lady returned.

That evening, Stone received a call from her father telling her of a message he received from Beth Gregory, a neighbor who said they had the two dogs. When Stone returned the call, Gregory informed her both dogs were shot and killed, claiming they had “killed her cat.” Beth Gregory added that the “small dog” was dead, and thrown into the river.

Albert Gregory later explained to deputies that he found his cat (which he claimed was dead) in the corner of his garage, where the door was cracked open to allow access. It was at that point he saw the faces of the two dogs looking through the open doorway. Gregory quickly captured them with a pillowcase, removing a collar (to ostensibly contact the owner) and then took the dogs to the backyard, where he shot Lady with a 12-gauge shotgun.

As Gregory came back to the house for more buckshot to “finish the job,” he said Cricket had escaped the pillowcase, running off into the woods. Eventually, the wounded animal made her way back to Stone’s house.

The official report concludes with an interesting observation: “it should be also noted that neither Deputy Zondervan nor this writer has seen any evidence of a cat being killed.”

This sordid tale comes courtesy of the man who would later tell Craig Pittman that hunting is “incompatible” with public parks. Of course, hunting is quite different from simply stuffing your prey into a pillowcase, for quick dispatch with a 12-gauge.

When hunting deer, turkey, squirrel, rabbit, otter, bobcat, raccoons, beavers, quail, dove, feral hogs, coyotes and (later) bear, they are at least provided more of a sporting chance.

The story does end on a somewhat happy note. After emergency treatment in both Florida and Georgia, Cricket eventually survived the ordeal.

For his part, Gregory — who was released on his own recognizance — was now free to opine to Pittman, years later, on the relative evils of hunting in state parks. Based on such firsthand experience, he should know about evil.

When asked for his side of this story, Gregory did confirm the accusation but declined to comment further.

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The archetype is probably ‘Lucky Jim’ by Kingsley Amis…

“From a comic standpoint, anyone who’s every been to a cocktail party with university colleagues knows that even at the best of times it’s an ongoing comedy of manners, a ballet of awkwardness. There exist in university settings the following: Competition, ego, eccentric personalities. Sartorial affectation (berets, tweed blazers, brightly colored silk scarves, Trotsky-style beards, all manner of glasses). Bureaucracy and Machiavellian maneuvering. Snubs and indignities and inappropriate flirtations.

“All, as they say, ripe for satire.

The source for the quotation above: Revisiting the Campus Novel – by Erin Somers, Ploughshares

10 Fabulous Campus Novels To Cozy Up With This FallHuffington Post, Maddie Crumb, 2015

Academic Discourse and Adulterous Intercourse: what campus novels can teach usThe Atlantic, Megan Marshall, 2006

Who’s afraid of the campus novel?The Guardian, Aida Edemariam, 2004

The 50 Greatest Campus Novels Ever WrittenFlavorwire, 2013 (slideshow)

10 Classic Campus NovelsHuffington Post, 2011 (slideshow)

12 Books Set at University That All Students Should ReadWhat Uni, Billy Picard

Lawrence Phillips 1975-2016

Former football star Lawrence Phillips has been found dead in his jail cell. Phillips was a star running back at the University of Nebraska, where he won back-to-back national championships in 1994 and 1995. The latter is often considered the best college football team ever assembled. Phillips was as well-known for his off-the-field problems, one of several troubled star players that legendary NU coach (and now ex-Congressman) Tom Osborne was accused of coddling.

Phillips played in the NFL for a few seasons, but was widely considered a bust. His legal troubles continued after he left football. In 2005, he ran over three teenagers with a stolen car after a pickup football game, and police found several outstanding warrants for various domestic assaults. He was sentenced to a total of 32 years for various charges relating to those incidents. In April 2015, his cellmate was found murdered. After discussing prison life in poignant letters to former coaches, he was charged with murder yesterday. His death is believed to be a suicide.

Lightning closes out road trip with big win over Colorado

For a night, they were terrific again.

For a night, they skated crisply, and they shot relentlessly, and they smothered the opposition. For a night, the Tampa Bay Lightning looked like a contender again.

Tampa Bay won a rare lopsided game (this year) as they stopped the Colorado Avalanche, 4-0, to complete a 3-1 road trip. For the moment, the Lightning is in seventh place. They are one point behind Montreal in the Atlantic Division.

“As this road trip has gone on, we’ve gotten better and better,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper.

and three points behind Detroit.

Captain Steven Stamkos scored twice, his 19th and 20th goals of the year. It meant that Stamkos has now scored at least 20 goals in eight seasons. Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson also had goals.

Goaltender Ben Bishop had his second shutout of the season, and the 14th of his career. He stopped 21 shots.

Tampa Bay is now five games over .500 at 22-17-4. The Lightning returns home to play the Penguins on Friday night.

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After another title, Nick Saban may be college football’s greatest coach

He likes cookies for breakfast. He keeps Little Debbie’s pastries in business. He dances for his team. He tells jokes, rumor has it.

And that’s about all that’s sweet about Nick Saban, the University of Alabama‘s reigning grump, also known as college football’s finest coach.

Maybe ever.

Saban won his fifth title Monday night with his gutsy onside call with the score tied at 21 in the fourth quarter. The Tide went on to win, 45-40, over Clemson.

It was Saban’s fifth national title, four of them against previously unbeaten teams, but it was the Tide’s most difficult. Still, winning is winning, and dynasties are dynasties.

The victory is sure to start the comparison bowl between Saban and former Tide coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, who won six. But for Saban, the journey is much harder. These days, teams play more games, and they cannot split titles, and they cannot win a title in a season they lose their bowl games. Bryant could do all of that in those days where the champion was often the team that could shout the loudest.

These days, more teams are in the running for the title, and rosters have limits, and underclassmen turn to pro regularly. Athletes work year-round attending specialty camps. Yeah, it’s tougher.

Then, there are players such as Clemson’s Deshaun Watson to complete with. Watson was amazing Monday night, throwing for 405 yards and rushing for 73 to keep the Tigers in the game. It was the onside kick, plus Alabama’s big plays in the final period, that made the difference.

Through it all was Saban, a demanding coach whose teams always seem to be in the hunt. Saban has finished in the top 10 seven straight seasons. There is something hard about Saban, something unyielding. Pretty good never seems good enough. Odds are, he’ll be there next season, too.

That’s the thing about college football. It keeps getting harder.

Not as hard as Saban, however.

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