Best Medicine with Morgan Bost: Local comedians discuss bonds, bonding and festivals

BANTERING BUNCH: Local comic Morgan Bost, top left, returns for her latest conversation with fellow local comedians, clockwise from top right, Joe Carroll, Hannah Kaminer and Peter Smith-McDowell. Photo of Bost by Cindy Kunst; all other images courtesy of Bost

Dear reader, my sincerest apologies for the following chaotic line of questioning. Mercury along with five other planets are in retrograde, and I, like many others, am going through it. Am I being ironic? Who knows! (Not even myself at this point.)

Who am I, anyway? According to my editor, I still need to introduce myself despite being Xpress‘ Aug. 24 cover. (I hung framed copies in every room of my house, in hopes of finally earning the respect of my cats.) I’m a local comic, and each month I’ve been tasked with poking fun at all things Western North Carolina in an attempt to balance out Xpress’ regular dose of hard-hitting news.

Mercury retrograde aside, the changing of seasons always leaves me moody and nostalgic. But rather than wax poetic, I called up some of my funniest friends from Asheville’s music, improv and stand-up communities — Hannah Kaminer, Joe Carroll and Peter Smith-McDowell, respectively — to ask how they’re bringing in the fall. Below, we discuss local bonds, propose ways to avoid romantic partners during leaf season and brainstorm new concepts for festivals that are not currently being held in WNC.

Bost: This November, Buncombe County residents will vote on two bonds, totaling $70 million – $30 million toward farmland and open space conservation initiatives, as well as greenways, and $40 million to address affordable housing. These bonds are estimated to cost taxpayers roughly $32 in additional property taxes per year for 20 years. If both bonds were to pass, and if you could, how would you invest your individual bond budget of $32 a year?

Hannah Kaminer: I’d make more of those painted signs that got posted around town during the pandemic. You know, the ones that said, “You’re doing great!” and “It’s all going to be OK.” Those signs were legitimately encouraging to me, especially during the early days of COVID. But I’d use my $32 a year to make inspirational signs that are a little more realistic. Messages such as, “Someone is probably proud of you” and “Manifest your dreams — hope you have a trust fund.” Oh, and “Don’t worry — tourists won’t find everything you love.”

Joe Carroll: I think investing more money into the concerns of the unhoused is a great place to start. Basic human needs should be met for all of the inhabitants of Asheville. Being poor is not a crime. That said, greenways are great! Whenever I bike fast on the French Broad connector, I barely even think about all of the encampments that it displaced. I like to do wheelies over the cardboard signs on the ground that say things like “Dreaming of a cheeseburger” and “Anything helps.” It’s like a grown-up version of peekaboo, where if you can successfully get noodles downtown without noticing someone who is barely making it, you win! But in all seriousness, I would like to see more funding go to basic needs before Asheville gets any better at its apathy for the less fortunate.

Peter Smith-McDowell: Instead of taxes, what if we tried to raise the $70 million with the resources we have? I mean, we could sell all those crystals in the hope that they give us good money karma. Maybe bear rides for the children?

Bost: I’ll admit, I had a hard time answering this question despite the fact that I wrote it. (I told you, chaos.) On the daily, I trip outside and somehow manage to spend $32. So, I Googled, “What can you buy for under $30?” and it turns out, not much. I did find a Brita water filter pitcher on Amazon in that price range. With my annual bond budget, I would purchase exactly one water filter pitcher to be shared across Buncombe County. This will be critical once we’ve run out of clean water and most residents have been displaced.

Bost: Elections aside, let’s get personal. Fall is also known as “cuffing season,” a period where single folks settle down and find someone to cuddle throughout the long winter months. But what about those looking to extend “single summer” into fall? After all, we were stuck inside for two years. That’s a lot of dating to catch up on! What’s the best way to create the worst Asheville date night and avoid the latest cuffing season?  

Kaminer: Ah — advice for staying single. I recommend a good old-fashioned pub crawl. There’s nothing more encouraging than witnessing all the bad decisions other people are making. And nothing is more motivating to stay single forever than spending an evening on the South Slope with other drunken people your age. After that, it’s easy to feel fine with the idea of cats and knitting forever. Of course, if you happen to find someone you like — and you’re worried about getting attached — you can always bring them to my next show. You can ask Morgan about this; apparently, I write songs that are extremely effective at getting people out of relationships.

Carroll: I have never gone on a date with the intention of self-sabotage. Instead, that seems to happen to me almost as naturally as a wolf puppy howling for the first time. So, following my own experiences, I would simply recommend being yourself. Take your date to a dimly lit bar in the South Slope. Make your way past the service industry folks carving tally marks into the picnic tables. Find a seat next to someone in chef clothes who is staring out into the void like they are waiting for a bus. And then ask yourself vulnerable questions out loud. Let them know the real you in as few words as possible. Where do I like to go? “Abandoned buildings.” Who am I really? “Spontaneous. Edgy. Hilarious.”  What is my favorite movie? “I love Gattaca. I can relate to Ethan Hawke’s character because I too was bullied as a child!”  Be yourself! Make some memories. Then call them an Uber.

Smith-McDowell: The best worst place to take your date in Asheville is the drum circle. Duh. It’s supercheap, great entertainment and having rhythm is optional — so no pressure about being on beat. But if you don’t do public dancing, just take a walk downtown and maybe consider a brewery. Here’s a little-known fact about Asheville — we like beer. But shhhhh! It’s a secret. Another secret: every broom closet in Asheville has a brewery in it. So you can’t miss one.

Bost: I love love! So most of my worst date night experiences have been the result of my own failed attempts at cuffing. However, I can think of few environments more toxic to relationships than open mic comedy. Sit your soon-to-be ex-lover in the front row of any open mic comedy night and talk loudly throughout. The resulting heckling from unhinged stand-ups is sure to kick off the beginning of the end! If that doesn’t work, try taking your not-so-special someone to any local brewery for trivia night or live music. Set your “it’s not you, it’s me” conversation to the soundtrack of early ’90’s factoids or the smooth stylings of a Grateful Dead cover band.

Bost: In addition to loving love, I also love a good festival. Fortunately, WNC has plenty — from celebrating Bigfoot in Marion to white squirrels in Brevard; from Apples in Hendersonville to … well, nearly anything you can imagine in Asheville.  But do these gatherings truly reflect the realities of our region? What would be a more accurate Asheville festival for fall 2022?

Kaminer: The most appropriate new festival for Asheville would be Rage & Apathy Fest 2023, where Ashevilleans of all stripes take to the stage to express absolute outrage in song, dance, poetry and visual arts. The outrage can be about anything — the weird person in front of you in line at Whole Foods; how hotels seem to be more important than people; police brutality; that jerk who took your spot at community yoga. The weekend will be a fun time that is open to all. The only requirement will be that absolutely no action items or solutions are permitted. Anger is pretty much the same thing as goodness, y’all.

Carroll: First off, we run an ad in the paper that says, “Looking for a rockstar teammate in a growing industry.” Then we put whoever took the bait on a busted Schwinn bicycle at the top of Biltmore Avenue. Attached to the rear of the bike are two tickets to see Shania Twain. A few feet behind the bike is a shaking metal gate holding back hundreds of brides-to-be, their BFFs and their BFFFs. These eager festivalgoers have been waiting hours with only pitchers of blood orange White Claw to sustain them; meanwhile, upon their arrival, they were handed a slip of paper that reads, “You have been awarded special privilege on behalf of the city of Asheville. The expectation to treat those around you with a minuscule amount of respect does not apply to you. Congratulations!” Finally, “Let’s go, girls!” is heard over a loudspeaker followed by a bullhorn. The gates are opened. The Running of the Brides has begun. Much like the Spanish tradition, the public can run with the group but are encouraged to keep a safe distance.

Smith-McDowell: A festival? That much human contact might still be too scary for some. So, whatever the event, human-sized hamster bumper balls for all. We can poke holes in these devices so you can still get your chicken on the stick, though. Speaking of hamsters, we could do an Open Petting Zoo Festival. We have bears, our pigeons don’t really run when you chase them, and if you throw in a stray cat, we got ourselves a party.

Bost: The Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority recently dropped a whopping $1.3 million in taxpayer dollars to make Asheville an official sponsor of the U.S. Open. Since the city is apparently working hard to address our area’s most pressing issue — attracting even more tourists — I thought it might be fitting to have a Tourists’ Only Festival: a festival for tourists, run by tourists to see what it’s like to live in Asheville. The festival will operate on a token system, with tokens being allocated in accordance with local wages. Upon entry, festivalgoers will receive enough tokens for exactly one PBR and an Ingles sandwich. However, additional tokens can be earned through “side hustles,” immersive Asheville experiences like driving a taxi or serving other festivalgoers food and drinks. No crying, though! Save that for the walk-in cooler. In fact, tokens can be traded for Crying in the Walk-In Time along with souvenirs like healing crystals and Delta 8.



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