Memoirs of a Starving Artist (with Sam Jay & Alzo Slade) | Crooked Media
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July 06, 2023
Stuck with Damon Young
Memoirs of a Starving Artist (with Sam Jay & Alzo Slade)

In This Episode

Comedian and actor Sam Jay talks with Damon about the highs and lows of writing for comedy and show business, the brokest things they’ve ever done on the road to success, and how to balance making money with fulfilling one’s passion. Then, on Dear Damon, Alzo Slade returns to the show to help Damon advise a listener who wants to unmask for the first time since the start of the pandemic this summer.

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

Sam Jay Some of this is going to sound cliché, but I truly don’t do things for money. I’ve made that a point to not do things for money and not to allow money to be the driver of the car. Not to say that money is not important, but I consciously, you know, even getting into this before I had any money, kind of have a conversation with myself about what my relationship with my art and money was going to be. And I decided then that it can’t be the thing that makes the decision.

 

Damon Young Welcome back, everyone to Stuck with Damon Young, the show where if you knew us back in 2012, you would have found us the Trader Joe’s and down free samples of turkey bacon because we couldn’t afford to buy it then. So money is a legitimately terrifying thing for many of us to talk about, myself included, because it’s just so messy and so revealing that it almost feels like you’re talking the clothes off of your body. To talk about the relationship between making art and making money for the art that you make I’m joined by the comedian Sam Jay, who shares some really unique insights on money, comedy, and validation, why it’s so important to have a hustler’s mentality to help you get through it. And then for Dear Damon, Alzo Slade returns to help me solve a person’s anxiety about navigating a world where masks in public are becoming increasingly rare. Alright ya’ll, let’s get it.

 

Damon Young The writer and comedian Sam Jay was the host of the HBO original series Pause with Sam Jay. Sam, what’s good?

 

Sam Jay What’s good bro.

 

Damon Young I’m good. How you doing?

 

Sam Jay I’m doing okay.

 

Damon Young Are you still touring?

 

Sam Jay No. I’ve just been chilling.

 

Damon Young So the special that you just recorded, just to let everyone know, I saw Sam when she came to Pittsburgh. She was at Bottle Rocket in Pittsburgh and did a set for about an hour. And this was, I think, maybe in April. And so were there any elements from that show that you put into your recording?

 

Sam Jay Oh, man, you pretty much saw the hour.

 

Damon Young Okay.

 

Sam Jay I’ve tweaked a little bit of stuff, but I feel like at that point I was pretty like, this is what the journey is and this was the theme of the conversation. So you pretty much saw it.

 

Damon Young It was a good hour. And I can almost see how, you know, I write memoir and I could see even elements of memoir, particularly with comedians who have multiple stand up specials.

 

Sam Jay Mmmhmm.

 

Damon Young And you could see, not necessarily the progression, but you could see the connection from the last one to this one. It’s not necessarily like a seamless thing, but it’s just like, okay, this is part like of a tapestry. It’s part of a story.

 

Sam Jay Mm hmm.

 

Damon Young Now, when you’re doing that, do you have that in mind in terms of like connecting the first to the second? Or are you just like, fuck this, I’m going to just do some all new shit and.

 

Sam Jay Pretty much I’m gonna just do some all new stuff but like life has this kind of natural way of making those connections for you. I think. Even if that’s not like the goal, you know, like as I was building this one, weirdly, I was like, I’m not going to talk about my relationship at all. And it started to be a conversation about just the masculinity and femininity of it all. But then it’s like in that I could not talk about my relationship. So then that kind of started to make that bridge happen, like kind of just in this natural way that kind of was unexpected. But now that it exists, I don’t hate it.

 

Damon Young Now, are you are you one of the people where you can’t really listen to your own shit like it makes you cringe?

 

Sam Jay Oh, yeah. Like I’m already like, everything I said was stupid and I just said it Saturday. So it’s like immediately, once it’s like out of me, I’m like, ugh.

 

Damon Young Yeah, that’s. I mean, that’s why I got off Twitter. I’m not going to front and pretend like it has something to do with like Elon Musk or anything like that. It was my own anxiety about tweeting and it’s just like, you know what? I delete too many tweets where I have a tweet up in like 10 minutes later I’m like, man, I could have written that better. That joke could have hit more and I just delete it. And it’s like, you’re what? What is the point of me being on this platform? I’m going to do this with like 40% of the shit that I tweet.

 

Sam Jay I don’t think you can avoid that feeling, though, if you’re like a writer or any, you know, like even with the special, I was laying in the bed this morning like, Oh man, you could have added that point that would have made that bitch stronger. You should have said that. And you didn’t say that thing. And I think you missed that thing that you sometimes say, but you should have definitely said it then, you know?

 

Damon Young Yeah, I remember hearing this quote about writing, and I guess it applies to this too, where a person, I’m paraphrasing, but it was like, you don’t finish books, you escape them.

 

Sam Jay Mmhmm.

 

Damon Young I wish somebody would’ve told me that shit like ten years ago. I wish I would’ve heard that shit ten years ago.

 

Sam Jay Yeah, it’s kind of like you have to just have the baby, and then, like, however the baby comes out, it’s like. Especially, like with a live performance, it’s like in your head, you’re like, I’m going to do this. I’m going to see this, I’m going to cover this base, blah, blah, blah. And then like in the moment, the energy that’s in the room is dictating things. You might end up having to interact with the audience, and it takes you this way. There’s definitely moments in it already where I’m like, aahh, you should have said that. And I think any I do a special, I’m going to feel like that.

 

Damon Young So I got a I got a question for you that kind of relates to this topic, but it’s kind of off track a little bit. What’s the brokest thing you’ve ever done as an adult?

 

Sam Jay Damn, I’ve done so many broke things. Wow. Because some of them are like these personal things that no one knows, but I know and those were sad. I’m trying to think it was it’s sadder when it had to be on display for other people or was it sadder when it was just just me. And I’m like, ughh, this sucks.

 

Damon Young I got a few. And there’s some that it’s funny. It’s like, you know, I used to go to Costco and Trader Joe’s just for the free, you know, free samples. Didn’t have money to go to brunch. I was like, you know what, this is my brunch right here. So my car got repossessed in 2012, so I didn’t have the money to get it back. I borrowed some from one of my boys. I borrowed some from my dad and the rest, I joined a church because this church had a credit union.

 

Sam Jay Damn.

 

Damon Young So if you were a member of the church, you were able to sign up, get access to the credit union and get whatever money that you needed to get it. And so boom, I joined this church, Whatever registration I needed to do, I did that. Whatever service I needed to attend, I did that. Got like $500 or $600. Was able to get my car back.

 

Sam Jay Damn. I mean, that’s also innovative. And you gave your time to the Lord. So I don’t know that that’s bad.

 

Damon Young I mean.

 

Sam Jay I mean, the intention’s not great, but you still had to go and hear the word. So like.

 

Damon Young I had to be present.

 

Sam Jay Right.

 

Damon Young You’re right. I had to be president. I had to be in the house. So you. So you’re right. So you know what? That was a broke thing, but it wasn’t as blasphemous as I thought it was.

 

Sam Jay The brokest thing I’ve ever done. Damn. Is probably. I used to do fake deposits when you could do that. You can’t do that anymore. But there was a time where you could put empty deposit envelopes into an ATM and you could get like, you know, they give you part of the money right there. So like, if you made like a $500 deposit, they’ll release 200 of it immediately in good faith. So I would just put empty slips in the ATM, say I deposited some money and then get the money that I wanted out, and then just let my account be negative until whenever I could, like, fix it.

 

Damon Young I’ve never heard that before. I thought I knew all the broke scams. (laughs) All right. Learn something new every day. Wow.

 

Sam Jay Yeah. And then you’re only going to go negative for what you took. So the higher you said that deposit was, the more money became available to you immediately.

 

Damon Young There wasn’t like, someone at the bank that maybe after you did this, like two or three times were like, yo, you can’t do this anymore.

 

Sam Jay Because I had a job and it always would get fixed. It took a while before they were like, you need to leave the bank alone. That was one thing I used to do. Ugh, I used to sell my DVDs and stuff back to like Newbury Comics.

 

Damon Young *Laughs*

 

Sam Jay When I wanted to, like, go out and drink.

 

Damon Young See me. I used to just be at the club at early. Like if the club opens at ten, I would be the nigga that showed up at like seven and just hanging out.

 

Sam Jay We looked better because it was like a group of us that used to always go out, so it was like 9, 10 of us. So we would get there like early enough to get it for free, but not early enough to look like you super trying to get it for free. And whats fucked up too, because when I started like studding and I, I had made my transition from straight woman to lesbian. The clubs were getting mad because all the dikes would come in free ladies, and they would bring their dates and stuff. So then the club started like just shutting you down at the door because they knew they couldn’t kind of like say it publicly, but you would get to the door and they’d be like, we ain’t doing that stud shit. You gotta pay. That’s fucked up.

 

Damon Young I wanted to ask you that question about money because I feel like that is not something that we talk about enough, particularly people who maybe came from more economically vulnerable circumstances. Niggas who was poor and now are no longer broke are no longer poor when that shift happens. How it could just be not just an environment shift, but like an equilibrium, like internal barometric pressure sort of shift where everything changes, right? And then also there’s a reality that a lot of decisions that people who grew up poor make professionally, particularly artistic decisions are money based, is supposed to be about the craft, supposed to be about the love, supposed to be about the passion, supposed to be about, you know, wanting to grow as an artist, but also nigga fuck you, pay me. How has your relationship with money in your work particularly changed, or has it changed?

 

Sam Jay Some of this is going to sound cliché, but I truly don’t do things for money. I’ve made that a point to not do things for money and not to allow money to be the driver of the car. Not to say that money is not important. And not to say that I’m not interested in money, and not to say that I don’t like money or anything like that. Because if that was the case, I would be, you know, just on the street telling jokes on the corner. So, no, I definitely care. But I consciously, you know, even getting into before I had any money. Kind of have a conversation with myself about what my relationship with my art and money was going to be. And I decided then that it can’t be the thing that makes the decisions. I can’t do that that way, or I will quickly and easily become compromised, I felt, as a person. So while money is important to me, I make every decision artistically based on where I’m at, why I want to do it, and why I think it’s valuable to do and what I think it’s adding. And then money.

 

Damon Young I like the way you put it, because money isn’t a driver of a car, but money could be Waze. I mean, money. Money could be like, you know what? I know where we trying to go, but maybe instead of going down this road, you go down that road.

 

Sam Jay It has to be like, with purpose past the money, you know, like,.

 

Damon Young Yeah.

 

Sam Jay You know, there’s a reason why I’m not on my IG. hawking a bunch of items to people. I definitely could be making more money than I’m making for sure if I would make some different decisions about how I wanted to use this profile and and what I do. But I just don’t think for me any way that that’s going to work out. The integrity of the thing and the credibility of what I’m trying to create and build and sustain, I think has to, you know, matter more than the bread. But like with that said, you know, yes, I have teams of white people that I pay to go get me the most money they could possibly get me for the things that I want to do. For sure. You know what I mean? So it’s like I’m not trying to sell that story, but I definitely don’t, even the things that don’t seem like, oh, Sam would do that type of thing. I didn’t do it because of money. I did it because I wanted to learn something over there. I thought there was something that could grow me as an artist in that place, or I saw some other value in it that I felt I could add to what I’m already doing and building. But if it’s just money, I’ve told myself, like, that’s a red flag for you. If the only reason you’re stepping into this space is because they’re about to pay you whatever, then you should genuinely question what you’re doing and why you’re there.

 

Damon Young I agree. Again, that’s how your art gets compromised. That’s how your integrity gets compromised. And then you’ve just become a mercenary. And the thing that happens is that once money starts being the only driver, then your work suffers, and then it gets to the point where you can’t make money anymore because your work sucks.

 

Sam Jay Yes! Because you’re out here just, you know, selling yourself off to the highest bidder. It has to have more than that to it for me, whether it’s I’m going to walk into a space I’ve never done before, like and I want to know how this process works. And I want to understand how all this kind of comes together. And there’s some educational value in it for me. Or, Oh, this is a space where maybe I can reach a certain demographic of people that I’ve been trying to figure out how to reach, and I don’t have access to them currently with the things that I’m creating. And this thing is offering me an opportunity to tap into that. It just has to have more to it.

 

Damon Young And so you get on at SNL as a writer and I have some thoughts on how that particular part of the industry works, but I know how publishing works, where people who get entry level sort of jobs, which are, you know, prestigious jobs, even though they’re entry level because they’re highly sought after and highly competitive. But these tend to be the sort of people who can afford to make $40k a year living in New York City because they’re from this family or because they have this benefactor, because they’re part of this legacy. And so, did you see any of that with your experience, you know, writing for SNL?

 

Sam Jay I mean, that’s tough, right? Because it’s all like perspective, I guess.

 

Damon Young Yeah.

 

Sam Jay In retrospect to now being a writer for some years and writing other things and selling my own things, was I making a lot of money at SNL? No. Was I making the most money I’d ever made in my fucking life? For sure. I was definitely making more money than I had ever been paid weekly to do anything. I mean, you make over $3,000 a week, you know, like, yeah, New York’s expensive, but it’s all as expensive as you make it really like, too. To some degree, like when I first moved here, you know, I didn’t live how I’m living now. I was in a little like shitty New York apartment, you know, seeing if I was going to be able to keep this job. But I definitely felt more hopeful than anything I’d ever done. You know what I’m saying? And I definitely I was going to Saks nigga and buying shirts. I was feeling good. I was like, yo, I got enough money to like pay my rent, eat, like, and I could go, like, trick off and just buy some shit if I want it. Like, if I really want to go buy this thing, I could buy this thing without feeling like I was going to ruin my week or I wasn’t going to eat for two weeks because I went and cop this shirt or whatever the hell it was. So like, my perspective at that point was just like, This is kind of fire. And then I get network residuals. I’m like.

 

Damon Young I’m trying to remember if there was a Saks moment for me? Okay, so I live in Pittsburgh, so obviously the cost of living ain’t the same as it is in New York City. But, you know, when I first started writing for a living, I was on unemployment because I had just gotten laid off at Duquesne University. So I was on long term unemployment because we were in a recession and I wasn’t making enough money to, like, pay my rent and, you know, go to brunch once every two months or some shit like that, but not much more than that. And so once I started being able to actually take care of myself without the unemployment 2011, 2012, I started working at Ebony magazine. And between that and some of the other freelance stuff I was doing, I was making $3,000 a month. For me, we’re talking about perspective. That was the most money I’d ever made.

 

Sam Jay See what I’m saying? That’s also the thing with this industry. SNL wasn’t my first check. It was my first like weekly “you’re going to get this every week and this is a good amount of money”. Like, it was my first job in the industry that I could bring back to my family and go, this is starting to become a career. I have this place I’m going to go every week. I’m not just over here sometimes and over here sometimes. You know, it was that first type of experience with that, like a job. It was it was a writing job. But I mean, before I had done, like this show on MTV called Safe Word, and I had done like a season of that. It was very like we shot the whole season in two weeks. And it was this show they were trying out with Terrence Jay and I got like $35,000 at once. And that was like, whoa, okay, this is starting to like really happen. $35,000 at one time, you know what I’m saying? Holy shit type thing. So, yeah, it’s all relative.

 

Damon Young Well, you mentioned the SNL job as being like the first time that you could really like go to your family, like, yo, this is for real now. Like, I’m I’m making a living doing this shit. And so we talked about, I guess, financial validation. But was that like an emotionally validating thing for you? I guess what I want to say is you make the decision to make a career in comedy. And so was there a point? Was it SNL? Was it some other point where you’re like, You know what? I’m not at my goal yet, but I could say that I’m actually on the right trajectory. I can actually, like tell people like, you know what? This is what I’m doing. It not just be some bullshit, but is actually like, this is what I’m doing and I have proof. Like, I can show you.

 

Sam Jay For me personally, I felt that way once I started. Like, because before that, as an usher too, I had a pilot I had sold to develop and I was kind of like starting to get little TV looks. So all that little stuff for me was like, Yo, this shit is real for my family. It was SNL, it was being at an institution, it was being at a thing they understood to be an institution. It was them being able to come visit and see that I was like respected in a space that for them made it solid. I think everything before that, it was just frivolous to them. It was like, Oh, you got lucky. All you got to shot, oh, you got to look. But when I had like a job and then I was there for three years because that’s how they equate stuff, then it was like, Oh. But, you know, I think that’s just, you know, when you’re an artist, you have a whole different look at it. Because even when I left SNL, they were like worried as if I was like leaving being a doctor, you know? They were like, Yeah, are you sure? What are you going? It is like the shit I was doing before I got there. You know, I’m going to keep making shit and, you know, doing what I got into this to do. But for them it was like, Isn’t that the end goal? To get a good job? Why wouldn’t you have a good job? And it’s like, that’s just how they see shit.

 

Damon Young I mean, keep it a bug. That was mine when I first started the you know, okay, I’m a writer full time thing. My ambition and one of my ambitions was to get on somewhere. Staff writers somewhere, make like a salary, have the benefits, and just stay there in animation. Maybe. Maybe write a book, maybe do other things. But my aspiration at that time, because I was so used to being in just a precarious situation where my finances were just always unsettled. I just wanted to be somewhere where I could do my work, I could write and I could be settled.

 

Sam Jay I always thought I was going to be like a gunslinger. And this I never saw anything past. And maybe I was short sighted of me or whatever, but I just wanted to, like, make enough money doing comedy to live like I was living. Like, I was like, Dude, if I could figure out how to make $36,000 a year doing standup, however I figured it out. It’s like I’m running around the country all year for like 800 bucks weekends. But if I can get to a place and stand up, I can string that together pretty consistently. Like I was seeing a lot of other road dogs do, honestly, and I think that was my first thought. It was like, I’m just going to be like a road dog. Like I’m watching all these other dudes that I grew up watching on Def Jam and MADtv and all the different spaces in which I grew up watching these comics. And, you know, they’re they’re out here doing their 4 to 5 K weekends, as many of those as they can get. And then they’re mixing them up with $800 shows here and $100 shows year and every month they’re coming out with their rent and what they need. And I was like, Yo, I could get into a situation like that where even if I’m struggling, like I’m struggling now, I’m just doing something I actually want to do because right now I’m struggling and I’m doing something I fucking hate. So if I could just get to a place where I’m doing something I want to do, yeah, I’m good. That was like my only goal. I was like, Then I’m good. Then I figured it out and I’m fucking happy. And I don’t care if I get to pay my bills. This way. I’m happy, bro.

 

Damon Young You mentioned comics making a living on tour, right? I’ve always been curious about like, how exactly does it work? How exactly does this page structure work? Now, obviously, someone who’s more established is going to make more money than someone who maybe is less established or not. For instance, I’m a new comic. I’m a go on tour. How am I going to make money? How am I going to actually make money?

 

Sam Jay It’s crazy because it could go on. It’s a million different ways. That’s why I always think with this shit, this creative shit in all respect to the writers and what’s happening now, but it’s like it is a gig economy. This is what we chose. A little bit. Yeah, I know. We’ll structure to it, especially this day and age. Say you a new person, but you already built internet following. You make more money to me on the road. If you have too many some followers. I don’t have to make some followers. I may have way more sandwich machine. I may have the ability to do what hours you do not. But do your 2 million followers. You can sell out a tour in a way that I cannot. So even if they get to your show and they’re disappointed you still sold those tickets. So you may make. Way more money to me. Because it’s not based on any issue.

 

Damon Young I understand what you’re saying. I was asking more about structurally. So let’s say you’re on that tour and you sell out the show now. Are you getting an advance for that venue or are you getting like a portion of the proceeds.

 

Sam Jay Depends on the deal you make.

 

Damon Young Depends on the deal. Okay.

 

Sam Jay Some people get to a place, you fucking Dave. You a Chris. You could get to a place where you’re like, you’re not getting none of that. You only get this because I’m at this place. Some people you might be at a place where you’re like, I don’t even know if I could sell these things out or not. So I’m working off the guarantee. Some motherfuckers guarantee might be $6,000 because they got TV credits or they have this or they have that. Another motherfucker’s guarantee might be $1500 because it’s like, we taking a big riskon you, you taking a risk coming out here. Some clubs don’t give a guarantee.

 

Damon Young Okay. And again, this is just I’m still learning all the different ways to make money, you know, and I’m especially curious what artists, people who don’t necessarily have the traditional nine fives like, okay, well, you’re making a living doing this thing, making money. But how does that actually happen? Like, how is the money actually made?

 

Sam Jay Agency and managers also that that helps that, right? Depending on the level of your agent or your manager, you might be able to get a better guarantee or a better situation purely based on the relationships your touring agent has. Because if they have other relationships that the club values, even if the club doesn’t value you, that I they want to keep this person who has these other relationships happy so good touring agent could have a baseline was like none of my comics work for less than a $4,000 or $3,000 guarantee. That’s the baseline of anybody that I represent because that’s where I’m at and that’s my level. You get what I’m saying. So you get in that because whoever that person who’s decided they want to represent you, they believe in you, and now you’re getting that off the strength of them a little bit. Off of their other relationships that they have that they can leverage with this club. It just could be a million things.

 

Damon Young Yeah. I mean and it is a hustle. And whenever I get in front of like young people who ask like, okay, how do you how do you write for a living? How do you be an artist for a living? Like you got to hustle. Right? Like, you know, yeah, there’s some people who have the established 95 and they get the salary and are able to go home and spend time with their family and whatever. But even get to that point, takes some hustle. It’s a circumstance where, you know, you might have a good year, you might have a great year, and then that great year is followed by a year that ain’t so great.

 

Sam Jay Right. Or you might have a run of like eight great years and they a run of like ten years where no one gives a fuck about you bro.

 

Damon Young Yeah.

 

Sam Jay I was just watching on what you call its Katharine Hepburn’s joint, The doc she had on Netflix I think? Just watching the ebbs and flows of this woman’s career. You know what I mean? And just being like, dude, you can’t really predict any of this shit in that way. You know what I mean? It’s just trying to figure out like what? For me, I knew the path I wanted. I wanted the path of longevity. I wanted to be able to do this for a long time. However it comes, the ebbs and flows. I wanted to establish a situation where I could do this till I’m dead. So that’s what I was going for.

 

Damon Young Is that still the goal?

 

Sam Jay Yeah. I just wanna be able to create stuff. When I started, it was comedy. I want to be able to do stand up. I’m a standup and I was very, like, rigid in what that was. I think I’m way more open, but I do want to be creative till I’m not here. I want to be able to make things.

 

Damon Young Yeah. I was talking to somebody the other day about the cost of a retirement and how that’s just something I just never considered. I just don’t envision myself just not doing anything.

 

Sam Jay Yeah, in my mind, retirement is me writing a book. Like, I always think my book is going to come when it’s like I’m old and I can’t really run around no more. When something forces me to sit down and write it. Because I’m not moving. And my brain’s like, all right. But that’s in my mind what retirement looks like. Retirement looks like another project.

 

Damon Young Basically, your retirement is like my career right now. Write a book. Maybe, maybe have a podcast. Alright Sam. Thank you so much for coming through. Yo, your new special, where where can people find it? Where’s it going to be?

 

Sam Jay On HBO. Not Max. Ya bitch. HBO.

 

Damon Young HBO Proper. Old School. HBO.

 

Sam Jay When you go on Max you know, they got them tabs. You got to hit that HBO tab. I’m super excited for it. It was the vibes on a thousand. It was the best show to tour, which is what you want. The energy was there in the first show was like the execution show. So I feel like the combo is going to come out saucy.

 

Damon Young All right, Sam Jay, appreciate you.

 

Sam Jay Appreciate you big dawg.

 

Damon Young All right. Up next, Dear Damon with the homie, Alzo Slade. But first, Damon Hates. I’mma keep this short, my beef is that Pittsburgh shared a characteristic with many other smaller cities. And it’s a characteristic that I feel like Pittsburgh should not share with these many other smaller cities, smaller communities, smaller suburbs, whatever. And it’s that there are limited options, right? For eating, if it is like 9:00 on a weekday or even a weekend. The options are limited. And I feel like Pittsburgh, you know, we’re big enough and we want to be like this burgeoning city, a city that has shifted from being known for steel and known for powerplants and known for smog. And now we are known for tech, we are known for education, we are known for arts. That is great. But we also need to make that transition to have more late night eating options. If I’m hungry at 9:30 and I’ve had a long day at work, maybe I’ve had a whole lot of shit to do, you know, family stuff, whatever. And I want to go out to get a bite to eat. At 9:30 on a Wednesday, my options shouldn’t be limited to motherfucking Wendy’s. Again, this is a thing that if you live in Pittsburgh or if you’ve been to Pittsburgh, you know it’s a thing. I just wish that I didn’t have to go to New York City or D.C. or Cleveland even to experience late night food. If we’re making changes, if we think that we’re evolving, becoming like this modern city, why don’t we just grow the fuck up and stay the fuck up. So that I can be able to eat dinner somewhere at 10:30 on a Wednesday without having to stay home or go to Wendy’s.

 

Damon Young So the homie Alzo Slade is a correspondent for Vice News. Alzo what’s good?

 

Alzo Slade Man holding it down like paper weights. You know what it T-I-is playa.

 

Damon Young Man I’m got one of the five sunny days of the year in Pittsburgh, you know what I mean, so I’m looking forward to taking advantage of that.

 

Alzo Slade Nice.

 

Damon Young You made a mention before about the fresh.

 

Alzo Slade This fade is fresh with the two parts bruh.

 

Damon Young You know what? I figured this is how the mullet is like the serious in the front, party in the back?

 

Alzo Slade Yeah.

 

Damon Young You know, I get the locks growing, so I got the millennial.

 

Alzo Slade Yeah, yeah, yeah.

 

Damon Young On the top.

 

Alzo Slade On the top.

 

Damon Young But I got the 80s.

 

Alzo Slade Old school.

 

Damon Young You know, I mean, the old school on the side of my head, so.

 

Alzo Slade Hey bruh, the lineup is fresh too. Like the edges it looks like your neck smells of fresh alcohol.

 

Damon Young You know shout out to The Natural Choice barbershop. Pittsburgh. Now I mean anyone comes to the Burg. Hit of The Natural Choice they’ll set you right. Nah mean? They’ll make it right.

 

Alzo Slade This is good to know I’mma pull up on you one day.

 

Damon Young Alright Morgan the Producer, what we got going this week?

 

Morgan the Producer Dear Damon, summer’s coming. I’ve been really good the past couple of years about masking up. But with the restrictions lifted, I’m ready to be back outside. But what’s the proper way to be outside? To be respectful of my fellow maskers while still having fun.

 

Damon Young Shit, that’s a good question.

 

Alzo Slade Wait a minute. It is a question from 2023?

 

Damon Young Yeah. Why? Why do you say that?

 

Alzo Slade Huh? Who still wearing masks?

 

Damon Young I mean. I still wear masks.

 

Alzo Slade Really?

 

Damon Young I do. Okay, so my relationship with masks. Right. I was still masking at the gym last year. I would be the nigga out there.

 

Alzo Slade See that just let me know you ain’t working out hard enough cause you.

 

Damon Young So let me. Let me finish. So I was masked while playing ball. I’d be the nigga out there with a mask on. This one little lil dude used to call me Bane. Cause he had never even seen my face.

 

Alzo Slade Yeah. Yeah.

 

Damon Young He’s start coming through the run.

 

Alzo Slade Yeah.

 

Damon Young He’s like in his early twenties, and he used to fuck with me. Call me. Okay. Here comes Bane, you know what I mean because I had the mask on. And I stopped wearing it while playing ball probably about three months ago, because I figured it became too much of an obstacle where I’m always adjusting it. And it’s like, if I’m doing all this shit, is it even doing anything while I’m out here playing with it on?

 

Alzo Slade Hold on Damon. First of all, yo, beard way too strong.

 

Damon Young Well that’s another thing.

 

Alzo Slade For your mask to do any good, bruh. Like if Covid was coming for you and they saw that mask, they’d be like, look at this clown right here. Watch me sneak through these follicles real quick.

 

Damon Young Well you know what? That was another and I’m sure you’ve experienced it. You know, you also got a strong beard. You know, you got a beard going on right there, too.

 

Alzo Slade Yeah.

 

Damon Young And that’s another thing of like, you know, all the greatest scientists in the world came together to find a vaccine or to try to find ways to save people’s lives from this virus. But no one could discover a mask for niggas with beards.

 

Alzo Slade No, bruh.

 

Damon Young All the greatest minds in the world couldn’t come together and find something.

 

Alzo Slade I was like, I ain’t going booty faced for Covid.

 

Damon Young Exactly. I went through a lot to be able to foundly grow this beard. You don’t want to see me without the beard.

 

Alzo Slade Yeah.

 

Damon Young You know what I mean? Like, this is doing a lot for me.

 

Alzo Slade I’ve never seen you without a beard. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Haaa. Let it work playa.

 

Damon Young I’m not cutting off my beard just so a N95 could fit me in a snuggly way.

 

Alzo Slade Listen.

 

Damon Young You know what I mean? So I have it on and it does something.

 

Alzo Slade Yeah.

 

Damon Young It did something.

 

Alzo Slade Well how you know it did something? It did something psychologically, which I think is very powerful.

 

Damon Young I think that matters.

 

Alzo Slade Yeah.

 

Damon Young You know if we’re talking like full body, holistic health or whatever, I think that.

 

Alzo Slade Yeah.

 

Damon Young Psychosomatic shit is real, right?

 

Alzo Slade Yeah. No, absolutely. I agree. I agree.

 

Damon Young But to answer your question, like, if I’m in an Uber, which I’m not really in much while I’m home, but I’m like traveling New York City or whatever. I’m in the Uber, I’ll wear a mask. I’ll mask up in an airport or airplanes.

 

Alzo Slade Yeah.

 

Damon Young So when I’m in close spaces, you know what I mean? I still wear a mask. But now if I go to the gym or if I’m like, I went to, like, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, you know, this big ballroom dance hall downtown Pittsburgh.

 

Alzo Slade All right, I see you. Okay. Okay.

 

Damon Young I went there.

 

Alzo Slade Okay, culture.

 

Damon Young Yeah. And I didn’t mask up in there because it’s just this really, really big space. And so, but I was a person who was very vigilant about masks. I have an autoimmune disease.

 

Alzo Slade Okay. Yeah, You had to be diligent.

 

Damon Young I had to be vigilant about that.

 

Alzo Slade And so that’s the thing for me. I don’t mind wearing a mask if I’m asked to, you know, So like, I was in Seattle at a bookstore and walked in and they had masks at the front, and they’re like, Sir, do you mind wearing a mask? And I say, Absolutely not, you know, And they gave me one I wore for the time that I was in the store. But generally speaking, I don’t. Like, I don’t on airplanes. I mean, I did, you know, during lockdown, which really wasn’t a lockdown for me because I traveled more during the pandemic than I ever have. And, you know, because the news doesn’t stop and, you know, that’s when, you know, a lot was happening with regard to BLM, George Floyd. And and there were times where I was in situations and I said to myself, well, if I end up getting COVID, I know this was the moment I got it. You know, I’ve not gotten it, or at least if I have, I don’t know it. Your fan that that wrote the letter. Now they’re asking about how to be respectful. Is that what the question was?

 

Damon Young Yeah, I think the question I feel like this is the year where even the people who have been are most vigilant, are taking more chances, doing more things. You know what I mean? I know that I am like, for instance, I am more likely to wear a mask when I’m out, when I’m home. Right. But when I travel and I’m going out, if I’m in New York City and I’m, you know, going to this spot and going to that spot and going to this spot, I’ll mask up in Uber. But once I’m in the spot, I’m not wearing a mask. Right? But then when I would come home back to Pittsburgh, I was a bit more vigilant about doing that. But again, it’s just it’s a weird. I think we are still trying to determine like the proper etiquette going forward and also being mindful of the fact that this thing is still out there.

 

Alzo Slade I think that is the proper way to go about it, but I don’t feel that when I’m out. When I go out, it used to be when someone was not wearing a mask, you would recognize it like it was obvious.

 

Damon Young Yeah.

 

Alzo Slade Like, wow. You know, one of these kids is doing their own thing situation, you know? And now I feel that in the inverse. To where when I’m out and I see a person with a mask, I think. Oh, Oh, yeah, I forgot. We are still in a situation where COVID is out here and it’s you know, it’s still a thing and I don’t judge them. It’s just a stark reminder that, oh, maybe this is something that we still should be doing, but I hardly ever see anyone doing it, including myself.

 

Damon Young And, you know, you made the point about, like the psychosomatic and how even if my beard kind of negated the mask’s effectiveness, there still might have been something to me believing that I had some sort of protection.

 

Alzo Slade Yeah.

 

Damon Young Or whatever. And how that could affect the full body. And so the psychology of masking, the psychology of how we’re contending with this virus is something I’m really interested in. Because to your point, COVID is still out there.

 

Alzo Slade Mm hmm.

 

Damon Young But I am less vigilant.

 

Alzo Slade Mm hmm.

 

Damon Young And there hasn’t been, like, any reason to be less vigilant other than time spent and other than us just getting used to it being around.

 

Alzo Slade Well, you think so? Because, I mean, it’s not in the news.

 

Damon Young Is not in the news, but there are still people catching it and still people dying.

 

Alzo Slade Yeah.

 

Damon Young But it’s not headline news anymore. It’s not even like a segment on a news anymore. Not in the paper.

 

Alzo Slade It’s not even a segment. You know, cause we were seeing the ticker, the numbers going up.

 

Damon Young Yeah. Like, they used to have stations here in Pittsburgh where you could go and get tested, rapid tested, etc.. Those stations don’t exist anymore because no one was going.

 

Alzo Slade Yo, can we talk about some of them stations, though?

 

Damon Young All right. Which? What do you want to say?

 

Alzo Slade Bruh, I don’t know what it’s like in Pittsburg, but I know in New York and L.A., some of them jokers is they used to. They just threw a tent that they got from the sporting goods store and put and and write on a poster board like COVID 19 testing. And I’m like, you know, like some, a pimple face teenager there with a little box that usually holds crayons and markers. But now they got like they got syringes and stuff, I’m like bruh, wait a minute, I don’t. This looking a lil suspect to me.

 

Damon Young I feel like, like you remember that that kid who got arrested or whatever for impersonating a doctor?

 

Alzo Slade Yeah. Yeah.

 

Damon Young Yeah. I feel like there was some of that maybe happening where and it’s funny cause that goes that plays in our own expectation. Where same dynamic was in Pittsburgh.

 

Alzo Slade Yeah.

 

Damon Young Where you would see people was like, Yo, didn’t I swear I just saw you at Burger King like. And you’re here, you know, determining whether I have like a life threatening virus. But because of a thing like OK, they have the official signage, they have the, they have to tent they’re wearing white the white coat, then that automatically means that okay, these people.

 

Alzo Slade Can be trusted.

 

Damon Young Obviously must know what they’re talking about. They must be trusted. Now, I don’t want to be a nigga who just sowing distrust of medicine right here.

 

Alzo Slade But no, now we’re not we’re not talking about a distrust of medicine.

 

Damon Young Or people working in that field.

 

Alzo Slade But wait a minute. But I’m just saying, I feel like there are legit official employees, workers, medical professionals in that field. But like, lemme just merge into another lane that is parallel. I know growing up in Tallahassee and even in college, you go to a party downtown or something and there’s a dude in a fluorescent vest in the parking lot taking money for you to park in that lot. And you like, man, this joker does not, is not affiliated with this property.

 

Damon Young No idea his affiliation?

 

No idea but but you go. But you like if I don’t give him his money and I park here, you know, my shit may be broke into and gone when I get back. You know what I’m saying? But nine times out of ten, this joker went and got a fluorescent vest from his cousin that works in sanitation and and he taking 10, 15, $20 for you to park in the space. Now, back to the folks in the tent giving COVID 19 tests- them jokers then got wholesale tests from Walgreens, Duane Reade from a cousin that would delivering them on a truck. And they set up a tent like yo COVID test right here, $20 with a lil with a little printer, and they print out the result. So you can go fly to wherever you need to be for your job.

 

Damon Young Now these were free. These were free in Pittburg. We ain’t have to pay. We ain’t had to pay for em. But getting back to the question, this person wants to know how to be considerate, how to be mindful of people who are still out and vigilant. And I think you just be considerate. You be a compassionate.

 

Alzo Slade Absolutely. Yeah Yeah

 

Damon Young Empathetic human.

 

Alzo Slade Yeah.

 

Damon Young Where if someone seems uncomfortable with a thing, you don’t make fun of them. You don’t be like, Oh, what’s wrong with you? You.

 

Alzo Slade Yeah.

 

Damon Young You know, hypochondriac, you know, hysterical. Whatever. They know this person. You don’t know if this person has autoimmune disorder. You don’t know. And also to this person is probably still kind of doing the right thing.

 

Alzo Slade Yeah.

 

Damon Young You know what I mean? Even though the rest of us, most of the rest of us decided to kind of be like, All right, fuck it. And so I think that you just treat that person with care, you that personal compassion. You know, if they’re worried that you’re too close, well, back away.

 

Alzo Slade Now, I’m with you on that.

 

Damon Young You know what I mean? If they want you to mask up when you are with them, or if you’re about to come over or if you’re sharing an Uber or whatever, do it. Do it. I mean, it’s like it’s nothing.

 

Alzo Slade Yeah.

 

Damon Young It’s nothing to do that. You know.

 

Alzo Slade I’m with you on that. Yeah. You asked me to put on a mask. No problem. My problem is I don’t carry them. And so now that the issue. They be like, would you mind putting on a mask? Not a problem. Would you happen to have a spare one please? You know?

 

Damon Young All right. Alzo Slade. Appreciate you coming back, man. Thank you.

 

Alzo Slade Yeah. Nah, man, it’s good to be back. And just for the record, you know, I know you got repeat listeners. I told you this before. If I had a photo with Harry Belafonte, I would not have posted it.

 

Damon Young And why? Why wouldn’t you have posted it?

 

Alzo Slade Because it’s not about me. It’s about the memory of the person.

 

Damon Young Exactly.

 

Alzo Slade So if I really wanted to memorialize Harry Belafonte, then I would just find a dopest photo of Harry Belafonte. Put it up and just make sure my caption was fire. You know what I’m saying? My caption was respectful, and and if I had a personal story, I would write that story in the caption. But like, why are you putting yourself in the photo?

 

Damon Young Yeah. And is always an unflattering photo of the celeb. It’s like the person’s squinting. They’re tired from like, a night of, like, shaking hands and signing books.

 

Alzo Slade Come on, man.

 

Damon Young You know, they’re not even looking at the camp. And then I’m looking at the right camera. You’re looking at the right camera because, you know, you ask someone to take this picture.

 

Alzo Slade Yes.

 

Damon Young So you share this flattering as fuck pictures of yourself.

 

Alzo Slade Yes. While the celebrity look like they got a lazy eye because they looking at the wrong lens.

 

Damon Young Mm hmm.

 

Alzo Slade And knowing knowing that it’s a thousand dope curated photographs on Google images that you could just pull from and do right by this person.

 

Damon Young We see what ya’ll niggas is doing.

 

Alzo Slade Ya’ll jokers ain’t slick. Ya’ll ain’t slick.

 

Damon Young Alright man. Also, real quick, what you got going on? Like any new features, you know, you got going with Vice that we should know about?

 

Alzo Slade Yeah. I spent three weeks in the Democratic Republic of Congo and mostly in Kolwezi in the south.

 

Damon Young Mm hmm.

 

Alzo Slade Doing a story about cobalt mining and how the Congo is rich with minerals and has a long history of exploitation of those minerals. And cobalt is just the next iteration of that. And it was a very difficult story to tell, but it needed to be told. And cobalt is the mineral that’s used in our cell phones, electric vehicles and laptops that makes the batteries easier and faster to charge. So when we, you know, got your cell phone and they’re telling you that, oh, you get to 100% charge in like 30 minutes, well, it’s because of cobalt and how the folks over there mining it are being exploited.

 

Damon Young Shit.

 

Alzo Slade Yeah, sorry to leave on a down note but.

 

Damon Young Nah, I mean, I asked. I asked. And, you know, I appreciate what you do, man.

 

Alzo Slade Likewise.

 

Damon Young So. Thank you. Thank you for that. Make sure to check it out. It’ll be um when’s it airing?

 

Alzo Slade It’ll be airing beginning of June. June 4th, I think.

 

Damon Young Okay. On Showtime right?

 

Alzo Slade On showtime. Mm hmm.

 

Damon Young Okay. All right. Well, again. Alzo Slade. Thank you. Appreciate you. Thanks for coming through.

 

Alzo Slade Appreciate you bruh. Appreciate the squad and all that ya’ll do.

 

Damon Young Alright man.

 

Alzo Slade Peace.

 

Damon Young Peace. Again, I just want to thank Sam Jay, Alzo Slade. Coming through today. Great conversation, great guests, great topic. You know, and thank you all for coming through again for another week of Stuck with Damon Young. You could have been anywhere else in the world but you chose to be here with us this week. So thank you for that. Also you could listen to Stuck with Damon Young wherever podcasts are available, but if you happen to be on Spotify, you happen to be on Spotify app, we have interactive questions, answers. You can have some fun with it. So go ahead, check it out on the Spotify app. Also, if you have any questions about anything whatsoever, hit me up at DearDamon at Crook dot com. Alright ya’ll, see you next week. Stuck with Damon Young is hosted by me, Damon Young. From Crooked Media our executive producers are Kendra James and Madeleine Haeringer. Our producers are Ryan Wallerson and Morgan Moody. Mixing and mastering Sara Gibble-Laska and the folks at Chapter Four. Theme Music and Score by Taka Yasuzawa. Special thanks to Charlotte Landes. And from Spotify our Executive Producers or Lauren Silverman, Neil Drumming and Matt Shilts. Special thanks to Lesley Gwam and Krystal Hawes-Dressler.