Harris: Welcome back to the guest microphone old pal, comedian Jake Johannsen. Good morning, Jake.
Johannsen: Good morning, Paul.
Harris: It’s good to see you, it’s been a while. Last time I saw you, you and I were backstage at some comedy club talking about you in L.A. and the whole TV community.
Johannsen: Yeah, I thought I was going to get to do a TV show. I’m on the Letterman show and the Tonight Show all the time, so not like that. I thought I was going to get my own show.
Harris: The “Jake Johannsen Show”.
Johannsen: Wouldn’t even have to be called that.
Harris: Could be “Jake!”
Johannsen: Could be “Hi, Chuck.” I could have another name. I’m not one of those guys that has to have my name. In fact, I would rather obscure the issue and have another name on the show so that if it doesn’t go, another guy gets blamed.
Harris: (laughs) So you don’t have to be like Tony Danza, where on every show, “Hi, Tony!” is all he can handle.
Johannsen: Right. That is the problem with those shows. I like TV shows. Actually, I’ve been having so much confusion getting my own show, that I’m thinking now that the fastest way to show business is really the police academy, because then you can be on “Cops”.
Harris: Oh, you don’t mean the “Police Academy” movies, you mean the actual police academy.
Johannsen: Yeah, train to become a police officer and then really shine when the crew of “Cops” comes with you in your squad car. A lot of people bad-mouth “Cops” and first of all I think those people have not really tried “Cops”. If you it try, you’ll see. I love “Cops” because I personally have never gotten drunk, and taken off all of my clothes, to fight the police. That’s the best thing about “Cops.” In every episode there is a naked guy, hammered, who wants to wrestle one of them. That’s a level of self confidence that I don’t think I will ever attain.
Harris: (laughs) No.
Johannsen: Just think about it for a second. You’re drunk, you’re naked, you’re outside… got it? You see two cops coming towards you and your first thought is, “All right. I can do this…”, you know? What are you drinking to wash away, “Go in the house”? They never go in the house. It’s always, “I’m glad you’re here. She started it!” Trying to explain to the cops, you lose a lot of credibility with the police once you are naked. I don’t know if you understand that whole concept. I was watching “Cops” one time, and it was a naked guy in a barber shop. Some kind of special, they were having naked haircuts or something. I don’t know how you wind up with a naked guy in a barber shop.
Harris: And you do not want to know.
Johannsen: He just walks in, “Do I have to make an appointment or am I next?”. But they’ve got him in the barber shop, and you don’t see what happens ahead of time, you just see what happens once the police are there.
Harris: Right. There’s no prelude. It’s not a Quinn Martin episode. You just go right to the plot.
Johannsen: Usually it just starts with a guy on the radio taking a call. “Yeah, we’ll be right there. We just have to drop off a glove.” That’s the L.A. cops. So they’re at the barber shop and they have this guy cornered in a back room, and you can’t tell he’s naked at first because just his arm shows as he’s waving the police off, “Get away!!” “Sir we need to talk to you, you need to come out.” “I won’t do it!” “Come on, you’re naked. Just come on out of there.” And finally they wear him down, but he says, “All right, but then we’re going to wrestle!!”
Johannsen: So they make a semi-circle around him, and his first move when he comes out is to get in this squat with his arms spread out. Really squatted down, like he’s going to wrestle them. I guess when you’re naked and it’s cops, “go low” is what he’s been trained. Because they will try and pull a crab move on you and you don’t want to give the cops a take down right off the bat.
Harris: No. You end up in a half-nelson, and who needs that.
Johannsen: And that is still legal. So they pin this guy on the ground in a second, and then they start squirming around. Then he starts screaming in the camera, “Put it in the paper, put it in the paper,” like he doesn’t even get he’s on TV Forget the paper. That’s not a newspaper machine they are aiming at your head right now. So then he tries to get up off the ground, which is probably the best part and it happens all the time. The guy is drunk, he’s naked, he’s on TV, and there are two cops on top of him… but he has a plan!
Johannsen: “I’m just gonna get up, get dressed, act normal. I am okay!”
Harris: Do you think “Cops” is one of our greatest crime fighting features in America?
Johannsen: It is up there with “America’s Most Wanted”.
Harris: But at least on “America’s Most Wanted” I can see criminals actually getting caught, people joining in the crime fighting effort. On “Cops” you just watch for pure entertainment. I don’t think there is any crime fighting being done.
Johannsen: Well they’re catching those guys drinking and being naked.
Harris: Not exactly the FBI Most Wanted list. You never see their posters at the post office.
Johannsen: Yeah, they’re not really the tough guy criminals who are wanted for life. You watch those shows and you worry about crime a lot. Do you have the LoJack thing out here where if it’s stolen you call the police and they set off a thing in the car and they can find it?
Harris: Yes, right.
Johannsen: Now they have a thing in Los Angeles where you can have that in your dog. In case your dog is stolen, the police can turn on the LoJack and find right where your dog is, and a lot of times these dogs are being stripped for parts down in Mexico. So sometimes they get there and it’s too late.
Johannsen: The LoJack for the dog is just catching on now.
Johannsen: I really think it’s a great product.
Harris: That has got to make the cops really happy, “Oh, jeez, Fido’s out again!? Tell you what, we’re not sending out a helicopter. We’ll send out a paper boy to look for him.”
Johannsen: I have been reading all about crime. Did you know on death row in some states you are allowed to choose your form of execution? You can decide what you want.
Harris: What are the options?
Johannsen: That’s what I was thinking. Are you allowed to make up your own? Because gas chamber, electric chair, firing squad… those are all pretty bad. I think I would choose to be tickled to death by supermodels.
Harris: (laughs) I don’t think that’s an option.
Johannsen: I don’t know why everybody wouldn’t choose that.
Harris: It’s that or lethal injection… I don’t know.
Johannsen: Yeah. I always say tickled to death by supermodels.
Harris: Do you know when they give you the lethal injection, they put alcohol on the spot on your arm before they give you the shot?
Johannsen: Yeah, they don’t want an infection. That would be bad.
Harris: “It’s getting all puffy, we can’t do the killing now.”
Johannsen: I’m not really a criminal. I can’t remember the last crime I committed. Do remember any crimes you committed?
Harris: Probably when I was a kid I shoplifted candy or something.
Johannsen: I’m not very much of a crook. Here’s a job that I heard about, “Daredevil.” And I love the sound of “Daredevil” so much that right out of college I thought that I would become a Daredevil, but…it’s really dangerous. I mean, they get you up there in that plane and you are supposed to jump out, head first, on fire! It just scares the hell out of me. It sounds so good, but a lot of the stuff they do, you could get hurt badly. So that is why I dropped out of the whole training program. It really is more than you think it is going to be.
Harris: You walked out, rather than dropped out, because that would be too dangerous.
Johannsen: But a lot of jobs out there are kind of bad. I have been looking for new businesses to get a little extra money. In San Francisco I was walking around and I saw a business that was a combination head shop, magazine stand and mail box place. You can have your mail delivered right to the head shop. I don’t know about that. You don’t want to come in for your mail and hear, “Oh…we smoked your mail.” You don’t want that.
Harris: “We don’t get mail here… what are you talking about, man?” No, you probably want somebody more lucid then that.
Johannsen: A little more lucid than that. Have you been to Las Vegas?
Harris: I was there a couple years ago.
Johannsen: It has changed a lot. They are building all these new casinos. They are trying to make it appeal to kids.
Harris: It’s the family fun place, Jake.
Johannsen: Now is that a little freaky to you?
Harris: Yes, totally.
Johannsen: I think they are actually working on ways that kids can gamble, where you could take your kids and they could accidentally lose all their candy or toys. They could bet their toys. “Timmy, what’s the matter?” “I lost the Superman doll.” “Aw, that’s too bad.” “I doubled down. I shouldn’t have doubled down.”
Harris: Well, why should parents be the only ones to experience the thrill of losing everything that’s important to them.
Johannsen: That sensation of driving back in a van to the midwest, no puzzles, no coloring books, everything is gone. You’re completely cleaned out.
Harris: “I hope you learned your lesson, young man.”
Johannsen: “I’ll never gamble again.”
Harris: “O.K., now on that Reno trip you’re going to have to be much better.”
Johannsen: “I’ll be good.”
Harris: (laughs) So what are your hobbies there, Jake?
Johannsen: You know, I’m a man of many talents and interests. But I have a house with a very small yard, and so I had a gardening experience a couple of weeks ago. I was putting in some dirt in my back yard to level out around where the patio is. So I went and I bought this soil at the hardware store. I bought top soil.
Harris: Yeah I love this. You already had dirt, but you had to go buy soil.
Johannsen: I had to go buy soil. You know what the difference between soil and dirt is? About two bucks a bag. So I bought this top soil and I brought it home and I thought, “You know what, I have a plant in the house that could use a little more soil.”
Johannsen: So I took some of this soil and I put it in the plant in the house. Now do you know what the difference between top soil and potting soil is?
Harris: Uh, no, I don’t.
Johannsen: Top soil has steer manure in it. So when you take it in the house, it releases an aroma that is really… let’s just put it this way, you wouldn’t want a steer in the house. So it really wasn’t a good experience and my Iowa background didn’t really serve me well in the indoor farming department. My whole house filled up with that steer smell and it kind of spooked my cat a little bit. I didn’t like it.
Harris: Do they tell you on the bag that it contains steer manure, because before I put my hand in the bag, I would like that vital information.
Johannsen: Well, it’s all sterilized.
Harris: It is still manure, though. I want that information.
Johannsen: There are so many things these days you can put your hand in with out warning. You should always be on guard and steer manure is really the least of your worries. I would keep it off your cereal, and other than that it doesn’t bother me too much. Although now that you bring it up, I did put my hand in the bag. But I wash up. I hose down in one of those panic showers out by the garden, like they have at the nuke plant. Guys show up and scrub me with a plastic brush.
Harris: You really liked the movie “Silkwood” a little too much.
Johannsen: I like it a lot.
Harris: Being from Iowa, I would think you would be more comfortable with steer, because I’m guessing that at some point in your life you went out cow tipping. Isn’t that a big thing in Iowa?
Johannsen: Sure, I know about cow tipping. The cow sleeps standing up, so you run up to them and push them down while they’re asleep.
Harris: It’s a big sport in the midwest.
Johannsen: It hardly seems sporting to me. Then they get mad at you and run at you. I don’t know. I think you have to be pretty drunk to enjoy cow tipping to its maximum.
Harris: Well, sure.
Johannsen: I guess it’s the look on their face that you go for. They wake up and it’s already too late but they haven’t hit the ground. It’s like, “Uh-oh!” I never went cow tipping. Cows are not the brightest animals. I think that’s why we domesticated them, because it was no fun to hunt them. You could pretty much hunt them with a hammer. You could just go right at them. “Hey, Jake, what’s the hammer for?” “Nothing…BONK!”
Copyright 1996, Paul Harris.
Transcript by Rhyan Jones.