PAINful Laughter: Some Bits of Wisdom From Zach Galifianakis


Austin L. Ray

In 2008, I sat with actor and comedian Zach Galifianakis in a tent on the grounds of the Bonnaroo music festival. We talked for a couple hours until it became pitch black and I could no longer read the questions I’d scribbled in my notepad. It was a fun chat. The Hangover was released about nine months later, at which point he became a millionaire star. As far as I can tell, he’s still a pretty genuine and interesting and kind-hearted person to this day. Here are some interesting things he said that night in Tennessee.

“College, to me, was a gigantic waste of time. It really was. If I ever have kids, I’m going to tell them, ‘If you’re 18, go rob a bank. Hijack a train. Don’t go to college. Go to India and open up a 7-11. That was a horrible joke.”


“My brother was very mean. He’s now not; he’s the sweetest person I know. But I’d be sitting at the kitchen table, and this is when I was going through puberty, and he’d get me up from the kitchen table, he’d take me outside and he’d rip all my clothes off me until I was completely naked. We lived on this grass hill, and he’d drag me up and down naked on this hill and hold me by the street until cars came by and they could see my naked body. My brother really kind of designed me, because I always thought his cruelty had a creative edge to it.”

“My first gig was in the back of a hamburger restaurant in Times Square. I lied to myself a lot: ‘You can really do this.’ Then you just keep doing it. I really loved it, going out, standing on bar stools with people’s backs turned to you and trying to tell jokes while they watch a hockey game in the background. At least with music, you don’t need an instant feedback. But with comedy, if you don’t have that laugh, you don’t have much to go on.”


“When I make horrible racist jokes, that’s because I think racism is so stupid that it’s funny. If people get it, they get it. I’ve also noticed that certain races are okay to make fun of and certain ones aren’t. I used to have a joke about a Chinese roommate and everyone would laugh at that joke. But if I did more touchy things about people who had more representation in our culture… To be quite honest with you, not a lot of Chinese people go to comedy shows. So I kept thinking, ‘Why is it OK to say that?’ I respect you if you’re offended by all of it. That’s fine. But don’t be offended by one thing and think another is OK. That just blows my mind. I’ve tried to preach to audiences that are uptight. But then I’ll do a joke that has the n-word in it and black people are the first to laugh.”


“I take things that come my way. When I go do acting jobs, I really miss standup, and when I’m on the road for a while, I need to go act. If I’m in an Ashton Kutcher movie here and there, I know it’s really against my style, but I’m not so elitist. One day I hope to be that, don’t get me wrong; I’d love to be so snobby.”

“I really wouldn’t mind being a serious actor. I don’t know if I could pull it off, but I think a lot of comedians really kind of want to be taken seriously sometimes and I feel I’m a bit guilty of that.”

Don’t Blame the Artist, Vol 2

Preparing Yourself for When Problems Arise

Last month, we were presented with a stark reminder of the risks involved with tattooing, when one of our own suffered severe from a severe infection after a routine session. We learned that even in the best of scenarios, problems can still arise. However, the final lesson was ultimately for the client, and that was that in these situations, one should never be so quick to blame his or her artist when infections arise. As tattooing has continually expanded from the margins of society into the overly populated realm of the “middle,” this industry has been all but forced to step up its game and (literally) clean up its act. As a result, infections through the negligence or error of the artist, while not impossible, are increasingly unlikely.

But that’s not total vindication. You still must exercise due diligence, every moment, every hour you’re on the job. And even if you could prove your innocence in a court of law, that’s barely half the battle. There’s still the court of public opinion, which can level a business far more quickly than any legal proceedings. Reputation is everything—and when it comes to the health and safety of your clientele, the old adage of “all press is good press” goes straight out the window. In this realm, any press that’s less than glowing can be a death sentence. Therefore, when a client you’ve recently tattooed walks through to door complaining of an infection, you can’t just brush it off and you sure as hell can’t wing it. A plan must already be in place.

There are two basic portions of a good plan: the ‘pre’ and the ‘post.’ That is, there’s the portion of the plan that prevents issues in the first place, i.e., the preparatory portion, and there is the portion dedicated to how to act when issues do arise, i.e., the initiation portion.

The ‘Pre’: How to Prepare

Be obsessively clean. This part is a no-brainer, but we can’t exactly discuss the topic at hand without addressing it. The short of it is you can’t cut any corners on cleanliness and sanitation. For the long of it, refer to our piece on clean room safety in Issue #[insert number], published October of 2018. The major takeaway from that article is that you can’t just abide by the minimum safety standards of your locality. You need to go over and above to the point where your workspace is cleaner than a hospital. Why? Simply put, because hospitals have the luxury of gargantuan insurance policies that will more than cover them in case of a disaster. They can arguably afford the mistakes; you can’t.

Know your sources. Considering the risks involved, you would think the FDA was closely monitoring the industry’s suppliers, especially the inks being injected into skin, but you’d be wrong. By their own admission, the agency is far too overstretched to do more than address problems as they come up. That means, as an artist, it’s incumbent upon you to do the research and properly vet your sources, insuring they’ve employed the proper sanitization protocols and are utilizing only the safest ingredients. And while the FDA might not be closely monitoring the industry, any supplier you deal with should still be operating in an FDA-compliant manner. That means producing out of a CGMP facility and employing lot and batch numbers for the purpose of traceability. That brings us to our next point . . .

Keep a log of everything. All of the previously mentioned actions we’ve touched on are essential, but they ultimately don’t mean shit if you don’t meticulously document their implementation. Think of it as high school algebra; you only get credit for a correct answer if you’ve shown you work. If you haven’t, there’s no way to go back and prove your method, or more importantly, no way to go back and find the mistake in the event of a problem. This also applies to your material. Every item you use, especially the ink, should have batch and lot numbers just like anything else within the FDA’s purview. In the event that a problem occurs, you need to be able to trace the materials all the way back to the location and date of production. Doing this not only covers your ass, but also instills confidence in your clients that you are employing the safety protocols necessary to keep them safe. Finally, always make sure they are there to witness when you open any of the prepackaged disposable items you might employ.

The ‘Post’: How to Act

Notice we didn’t say, “how to react.” That’s an important distinction. Reactions are just defensive jabs thrown blindly by the unprepared. Actions are the pre-conceived protocols ready to initiate when an anomaly arises in the system. You want to aim for the latter.

Don’t be defensive. Defensiveness is the reactive approach, which as we’ve already noted, is what you want to avoid. The more defensive you are, the more guilty you’ll appear. Start rattling off all the reasons it’s not your fault and your client will automatically assume it is. “The [artist] doth protest too much, methinks,” etc . Don’t tell them it’s not your fault. Show them. If you’ve maintained the proper documentation of your protocol and materials, that should be easy.

Listen. Keep an open ear. Let your client vent and don’t start playing the blame game when they point the finger at you. Chances are, they will, but that’s only natural. You’re the professional in the situation, so keep a cool head and hear them out. Maintain a humble attitude and make them understand that you are just as keen on getting to the bottom of it as they are. Once they’re done venting, follow up with questions about their aftercare, keeping in mind they’re likely to stretch the truth to save face. If they swear they’ve followed all your recommendations . . .

Utilize your system (pull the paperwork). This goes back to the idea of showing rather than telling. Go to your filing system and pull every piece of documentation related to their visit. Show them how and when your station was cleaned before they sat down in your chair along with what products were used and then show them the tracing system you have in place for the needles and ink. Then, remind them that they watched you open the needle package. If necessary, call the manufacturers and verify no other problems have arisen from the products you used.

Show empathy. This will go a long way. Remember, your client is freaking out and arguably, rightfully so. At best, they’re dealing with a flawed tattoo; at worst, they’re looking at long-term health issues and a stack of medical bills. If you’ve done everything the right way, you don’t have to apologize for your actions, but you should still show them that you feel sorrow for what they’ve endured.

Learn from the experience. Trials and tribulations are opportunities for growth. When this situation arises at your shop, take advantage. Go back over your process in light of the revelation and see how you can tighten the system. There’s always room for improvement.

Written by David Pogge – Expert advice provided by Jose Pena of Xtreme Tattoo in Sheffield, OH

CLICK HERE to read volume 1

2nd Annual New Orleans Tattoo Arts Convention

Photo Credit: @photobyshovey

2nd Annual New Orleans Tattoo Arts Convention

New Orleans Expo:

Facebook: neworleanstattooartsconvention

New Orleans is known for its cajun cuisine, music (the birthplace of Jazz), its annual celebrations and festivals, the world-renowned French Quarter, filled with artists, fortune tellers and street musicians, and Bourbon Street’s notorious nightlife. If you’re going to throw a party, there’s no better place than The Big Easy, and that’s exactly what Villain Arts did when they brought their traveling tattoo show to town for the 2019 New Orleans Tattoo Arts Convention.

“New Orleans has a really long, deep history with tattooing, and there are a lot of tattoo shops that have really thrived off the energy of the French Quarter. There are a lot of really long-running shops and a lot of really great tattooers,” said event organizer Troy “Tattooed Kingpin” Timpel.

“People in New Orleans really appreciate great tattooing and there are generations of people there that all have tattoos,” Timpel added. “A lot of the servers and bartenders are tattooed — wherever you go in New Orleans there’s just a real connection to tattooing.”

Villain Arts set up their show at the Morial Convention Center, one of the largest convention centers in the country, spanning almost 11 blocks, with nearly one million square feet of exhibit space. The New Orleans Tattoo Arts Convention didn’t make a dent in that space, but they certainly created a literal buzz around the building with some 300 of the top local and national tattooers keeping the ink flowing throughout the three-day event.

Last year, the city’s inaugural Tattoo Arts Convention drew an estimated 4,500 visitors, according to the producers. 2019 easily topped that number. Villain Arts is know for putting on a great show, and the entertainment lineup included sideshow performers Danny Borneo, The Enigma, Alakazam the Human Knot, and New Orleans’ own sword swallower, fire eater, glass walker, Femme Fatale Gigi DeLuxe. As always, Dr. Carl Blasphemy acted as emcee.

But this was a tattoo show and tattooers took center stage. Villain Arts brings their usual entourage of Ink Masters and tattoo celebrities, and they were joined by Shanghai Kate Hellenbrand, “America’s Tattoo Godmother,” and another New Orleans home-towner, Miss Jacki, the first African American female tattoo artist, and owner of Aart Accent Tattoo & Piercing. Adding to the tattoo culture was Dana Brunson, owner of Tattoo Designs by Dana, who’s been tattooing since 1971, set up a historical tattoo exhibit. Other well known tattooers in attendance included Black Ink Crew, Freestyle Alex from Freestyle Mania Studios, Robbie Ripoll, Ink Master contestant out of Operation Ink in Lafayette, Indiana. Wherever Villain Arts lands their show, they make a point to promote the local artists from that area.

“We try to really push the envelope get as many of the top tier artists as we can,” Tempel says. “We feature a lot of TV stars, but we try to incorporate different levels of tattoo history into our shows to kind of showcase where tattooing came from. It’s neat to see people who have been tattooing locally for four to five decades come and hang out at the show.”

Villain Arts also makes a point to spread the word about their shows not just to the tattoo community, but also the average joe, which helps to grow the tattoo consumer market in the areas where we put on the shows, and with that, they also shine a light on educating the public about health and safety issues surrounding the tattoo industry. SanaDerm is a regular sponsor of the shows offering free tattoo wraps for the newly inked.

“We want the crowd that was their to come and support those artists, and that goes for local artists and shops too. It’s like supporting local bands before they make it big,” noted Dr. Blasphemy.

“People know a lot of these artists from seeing them on TV or reading about them in magazines or websites, but it’s something else to see them in person,” Tempel adds. “A lot of the artists won’t book up in advance because they want to give the local clientele the opportunity to get tattooed.”

Drugs Are Bad, Mmkay? Jose Pena and His Unlikely Acquisition of Xtreme Tattoo & Piercing


Xtreme Tattoo & Piercing

“Drugs are bad. Punk rock is fucking tight. Don’t get your face tattooed.”

Yes, the accompanying photo indicates that Jose Pena, owner of Xtreme Tattoo in Sheffield, Ohio, has plenty of face tattoos. No, he’s not expressing regret. He just doesn’t think they’re for everyone.

He recalls one instance of an 18-year-old girl who wanted the word, “numb” under her eye. He tried to talk her out of it, but when she wouldn’t change her mind, he refused. When she asked why, he responded with a question of his own.

”Do you even have a job?”

“Not yet,” she replied.


Snarky though his response may have been, there’s an air of humility about him that belies his brief stint of only 23 on this earth that’s driven him to adopt an attitude of tolerance and acceptance. He wants his shop to be known as a place where anyone can be comfortable, where the artists treat the clients with respect. To that end, he’s put out coloring books for clients with children and has gone so far as to set the radio in the foyer to the Top 40 station.

“I now know all the top hits,” he chuckles, “and it drives me fucking insane.”

Admittedly, his good-natured demeanor wasn’t always what guided his actions. Part cautionary tale and part wunderkind to raise our hackles of inspiration, Jose has packed enough mayhem in his short life to make an episode of VH1’s Behind the Music look like a PBS kids special by comparison. Name it, he lived it; drugs, booze, gangs, homelessness—all played out to a gutter punk soundtrack. It took hitting the proverbial wall to pull him from his path of self-destruction.

“One day I was stumbling down 150th in Cleveland,” he recalls, “and I was just like, ‘Dude, what the fuck happened? How did that slip by me so fast? I don’t know who I am anymore’ . . . the whole gang thing ruined my relationship with my son’s mother, and we split up. Well, I called her when I was walking down 150th. She picked me up and got me the help I needed . . . and I got my life back together. Got my life back, really.”

At that point, he had already been working as an artist at Xtreme Tattoo for two years. It wasn’t long after this that the shop’s original owner, Hector Vasquez, took him aside and offered to sell him the business.

“Me and Hector, we got really close,” Jose explains. “Any time he needed help, I was there. He was getting older. But he was like, ‘Out of everybody, I see a lot of myself in you. I think you’d be the one to do it. You have that ambition I used to have.’”
By his own account, the idea scared the hell out of him. But as a young father who wanted to build a life for his son and fiancé, he couldn’t say no, especially after receiving assurances of help from the local artists who had mentored him. He took the plunge.

Now, barely a year later, Xtreme Tattoo is thriving on the new life breathed into it, so much so, that by this article’s publication, Jose will have already paid off the loan required to buy the business.

He gives most of the credit for his initial success to the staff he inherited, who have worked tirelessly to help him push the business to the next level. The artist roster includes Jessica Turner, who he swears can tattoo anything, but specializes primarily in brightly colored, feminine work, as well as full color portraits, and Ray Fluker, who aside from being described as “the most personable dude in the world,” is a perfectionist with a penchant for black and grey work. He is also the only African American tattoo artist in the county, which gives him a rare edge for working with the highly pigmented skin too-often avoided by artists afraid of failure. Jose rounds them out with his rugged, traditional style, all-but synonymous with is punk roots. Finally, his fiancé, Cortney Kuzak, handles the piercings.

It’s not often that someone with Jose’s past gets a second chance at life, a fact of which he is fully aware and deadest against squandering.

“I’ve done some shitty things in my life that I’m not happy about . . . I don’t want to be that guy anymore. It does nothing but bring bad to you. You get what you give in life. I want to be someone that you can respect because I’m doing good, not because you don’t want me coming after you.

“Everything is possible,” he goes on. “It’s just how much you want it. Even when you only have five dollars in you bank account, it’s still possible . . . I want to go down in the history books. When you look up those well-known tattooers, I want my ugly ass face to be in there somewhere.”

Online Bullying


Dear Elayne Angel,

I don’t know if this is something you can help me with, but I couldn’t think of anyone else to ask. I have been posting on some of the FaceBook piercer forums for a while now because I value constructive criticism and input from my peers. But holy sh*t! Some piercers went OFF on me so hard that I am traumatized. One guy in particular was ranting and calling me names, and several others joined in. I don’t want to sound like a whiner or a coward, but they were really inappropriate and obviously intended to hurt my feelings and smear my name and professional reputation.

They dragged stuff into the thread that was totally unrelated to piercing and they were so mean to me for no reason that I feel brutalized. They were also saying stuff that is flat out not true. I did my best to stick up for myself, but that just seemed to make the whole thing worse. That one guy actually said he wanted to kick my ass. I’m still so upset and I don’t know what to do with it.

Do you have any words of wisdom on how to handle this situation? Now I feel I can’t participate anymore, and that really sucks. I would appreciate your help because I hold you in such high esteem.

Respectfully, M.

Dear M.,

First off, I’m glad you reached out, because it is definitely best not to keep quiet about what has happened. You should also tell a friend, family member, or someone else you trust. They might have gone through a similar situation and have advice to offer. Even if just to vent, talking to someone about your experience can be very therapeutic. Depending on how distraught you feel, you might want to speak with a professional like a counselor, too.

Next, I want to let you know that I understand what you’re going through. I’ve been on the receiving end of some extremely vicious online attacks myself, in which truly horrible and entirely untrue things were said about me. It is very hurtful and unsettling, and I empathize with what you’re experiencing.

“Haters gonna hate,” as they say. And the Internet gives angry tyrants a deluxe venue to spew their venom. Being on the receiving end of their contempt can be demoralizing, or even devastating—but you can get through it.

Cyberbullying is an umbrella term used to describe many different kinds of virtual abuse. The perpetrator uses technology with online access to harass, stalk, embarrass, hurt, or mistreat another person. This type of negative behavior is incredibly prevalent, and it happens to children, teens, and adults alike. According to a survey(i) from the Pew Research Center, more than 40 percent of American adults have been bullied online and nearly 75 percent have witnessed cyber harassment. When it came to observing others:

    • • 60 percent said they saw someone being called offensive names
    • • Over half observed efforts to purposefully embarrass someone
    • • A quarter witnessed someone being harassed for a sustained period of time

Anonymity still exists on certain forums and sites, but even when the real identities of users is known, the distance provided by virtual communications decreases empathy and emboldens bullies to behave in ways they would be unlikely to if face-to-face with a live human.

I’ve seen cute puppy videos with nasty flame comments that were intentionally posted to be offensive and trigger reactions. So, a topic as provocative as piercing is definitely fodder for some fire—whether from the world at large, or from within our own community (which was the source of the vitriol that was directed at me).

There are lots of reasons that drive people to behave in such a way. Some have been bullied themselves, others are jealous, and yet others may have misplaced anger or need to exert power or control a situation. Regardless of the motivation, cyberbullying is never acceptable behavior.

I know the impulse to defend oneself can be overwhelming, but that is not a winning strategy. Since bullies get off on trying to make you feel powerless, when you fight back, you’re showing them that they’ve hit a nerve. Not responding isn’t the same thing as ignoring the offender. So, what should you do?

1. It is natural to want to just delete a bully’s offensive or cruel remark, but first screenshot everything and store the records carefully. Having documentation is important if the situation escalates.
2. Next, report the account to the social network and block them.
3. If the harassment is ongoing or there are physical threats, alert the police right away and provide the documentation.
4. If you feel that significant damage has been done to your reputation, contact an attorney. You might be able to file a civil suit against the aggressor, depending on the nature of the case. Possible legal actions include intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation of character, presentation in a false light, invasion of privacy, and harassment.

All major social media outlets have community standards and provide guidelines for reporting violations, including Facebook(ii). They suggest hiding the abusive item from your news feed, sending a message to the poster asking them to take the item down, and unfriending or blocking the person. You can also set up permissions to approve tagged photos, turn off commenting on posts, and disable location settings.

Other advice is to type out or write down everything you’d want to say in your own defense, but do not send or submit it. Getting it down “on paper” can help you to release the feelings and dissipate your anger and frustration without engaging online. While difficult, try not to take the bullying personally. Attempt to view it as the aggressor’s problem—not yours. The Cybersmile Foundation, a nonprofit anti-cyberbullying organization has many additional online resources you might find helpful.(iii)

The decision to involve the authorities and/or file a lawsuit depends on what is being posted about you. Key advice from police is to inform them immediately if a cyberbully threatens your personal safety. I’m not sure if you took the “ass kicking” comment to be an actual threat, but if you did, you should report it. Although no federal law directly addresses cyberbullying, in some cases it overlaps with discriminatory harassment when based on race, national origin, color, sex, age, disability, or religion. Every state deals with the problem differently(iv), but many laws relate only to handling of the matter within school environments.

Losing our networks is hard, even with strictly on-screen friends and relationships. The human need to belong to something, to interact with others, and to share is very strong. Consider other forums or sites you can visit to connect with colleagues or like-minded people. Maybe start your own Facebook group. As moderator of a closed group, you’d have control over who joins. This might prove empowering and satisfying.

I’m sorry that you have gone through this distressing experience, but it is good that you’re open to talking about it. I emphatically advise you to avoid engaging with bullies and encourage you take action as suggested above. I don’t think you will feel the need to log-off forever—just be selective about where you participate, and with whom. Keeping away from the bullies isn’t cowardly; it is smart and safe.



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Metal Mafia – ASTM F-136 Titanium Insertion Tapers

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Metal Mafia – Back to Basics


Back to basics. Metal Mafia carries a huge range of trendy jewelry designed in-house for healed piercings. But before prospective customers can get there, they need piercers to have a full stock of initial piercing jewelry. Shown: Internally Threaded Straight Barbells, available in sizes 18G – 10G in 316L Steel and ASTM F136 Titanium options.

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