Michael Che Took My Phone Away Last Night And You Know What, I Liked It

This feels funny.

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Hallway thingy at the Public Hotel, and me looking like an apparition of some kind.

Last night, Michael Che hosted a secret comedy show. This show, the third of its kind, benefitted victims of the recent bouquet of hurricanes that have hit the Caribbean and southern United States, an area I think we should now refer to as the planet’s unpredictable and sensitive stomach.

The secret shows began in early 2017, each with its own charitable cause, typically selling out within 4 or so minutes. I have acquired tickets for and attended all three. (That’s called a hat trick, kids.) The lineups are always secret, you don’t know who’s performing until they walk out on stage. I’ve seen comedians I didn’t know (and now love), I’ve had the religious experience that is seeing Leslie Jones, and I’ve seen Jon Stewart, and can therefore die.

Last night was similarly hysterical, plenty of laughs, plenty of Colin Jost, we all had a good time, despite the 6-foot bro in front of me wearing a t-shirt stretched across his shoulder blades so tight the GUCCI logo’s kerning was completely awry. What made this show interesting was that upon arrival, our cell phones were taken by venue staff, placed in a little fabric pouch that locked, and handed back to us. We all obliged, like lemmings. We were told they’d unlock the pouches and give us back our un-imprisoned phones after the show.

So more or less, last night I time traveled to the 90s. At first, I thought the phone sequestering meant that we were going to see Dave Chappelle, who I know isn’t a fan of phones at his shows. But he wasn’t there, so I’m still not sure what the hell this was about. What I am sure of is that I liked it.

I didn’t have anything to “check” to avoid existing in any one moment in time. I didn’t have multiple things for my brain to focus on simultaneously. For fuck’s sake I didn’t even know what time it was. I was surprised to discover I didn’t feel as though I was missing an appendage.

Everyone understands the value of unplugging every now and then, we’ve all left our phone in the hotel room to go read a book on a beach for an hour. This isn’t novel. What I found really novel was how quickly, how almost immediately, I didn’t even want to check my phone. Michael Che is an outstanding comedian, but I think he might also be a wizard.

We voluntarily tether ourselves to these devices and rely on a kind of perceived need. We don’t need a phone. Civilization has spent almost its entirety without iPhones, and with the exception of an orange-toned President or two, it’s done just fine. Our cell phone dependency has nothing to do with need. It has everything to do with being important.

Unless you’re relaying the information that someone’s number has come up on the organ donor list (and really, don’t you think that would be a phone call?), there is no email that needs to be answered right this very minute, whether you’re standing in line at a coffee shop or avoiding making eye contact with strangers on an elevator. We just like to believe we’re that busy, and that important.

We don’t need to post things to social media, we just like being made to feel valid and important when people like, comment, and follow. We like to matter, we like proof that we matter, and we’ve poured all our mattering into an overpriced, slippery piece of plastic and glass.

It was a nice reminder. It felt free, looking around a room felt incredible, and embarrassing that it felt incredible. I think that feeling came because it wasn’t just me who had chosen to unplug, it was an entire venue of people that had been forced to. We were all living in a moment together, one where everyone was present, no one was distracted, and everyone (with the exception of the smug fuckers in VIP) felt equally important.

Thank you Michael Che, for turning me off.

NPR once called me a humor essayist, let’s go with that. Host of A Single Serving Podcast. shanisilver[at]gmail

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