Tales from the Traveler – Larf Magazine Interview: Scott Schultz, Creator of BUSted

Scott Schultz is one Bostonian transplant who won’t take sitting in traffic for an answer.

When you think about it, even Paul Revere was a one-horse commuter.  There’s something about Bostonians that’s all about getting shit done no matter who’s helping or not.  243 years ago the alarm was “The British are coming!”; today, it’s “We will not be ruled by the automobile!” In the land of fantasy, the “Dream Factory,” as it’s veritbly known, the one issue all Los Angeles inmates suffer is gettin’ round.  If yer rich?  Limo.  Average?  Car.  Poor?  The bus.  What Scott Schultz does is nothing less than reminding us Angelinos to free ourselves from our own self-imposed shackles of status, the car, by enthusing us in the downright relish of celebrating the autonomy of public transportation.  I’ve said it all along.  The average American interacts with government only twice in their lifetime.  The postman and the cop who gives you a speeding ticket. Scott Schultz’s “BUSted” story-telling shows break that social barrier in two, shattering it before our very eyes, revealing to us the utter joys, as well as the frustrating dysfunction, of public transportation in Los Angeles.  I sat down with Scott recently on top of the first “L” in the Hollywood Sign for a cursory interview…

LM: What makes a good public transportation story?

SS: A good public transportation story is a good story, but it must take place on public transit. Otherwise, it is just a good story. If it involves a bomb on a bus that requires the bs to travel 55 mph or the bus will explode, then it is great public transit story.

LM: Who are your story-tellers?

SS: My storytellers are made up of comedians, storytellers and other creatives round Los Angeles who don’t drive or are muti-modal. We also book ordinary Los Angelenos who don’t drive but have true stories to share.

LM: Who is your audience?

SS: Our audience ranges depending on which location we bring our show. I’d say at least half of the audience are non-motorists. The other half are people who enjoy live storytelling, or find me handsome enough to follow around.

LM: Is there a class thing between public transportation people and car drivers?

SS: Of course, there is. And BMW drivers are assholes. (a Tanya White ‘joke’, according to Scott.)

LM: How long you’ve been producing BUSted?

Scott Schultz mesmerizing them at Stories bookstore in Silverlake.

SS: I have been producing BUSted for nearly five years.

LM: What was your inspiration to start BUSted?

SS: I wanted to bring a storytelling show to Los Angeles, when I returned from Boston in 2013. I chose the name BUSted, because the name had multiple definitions. I chose the non-motorist hook for the first show’s theme, and I realized quickly that there was an audience for this type of show, so I stuck with the theme. After a few shows, I realized that the show filled a void, and after 6 months. I realized that the theme had legs to last a decade.

LM: Have you produced BUSted in cities other than Los Angeles and if not, are there plans to?

SS: I have yet to bring the show beyond LA County borders, but I would like to tour the show eventually. Any city with public transit can appreciate these stories.

LM: What is the most often heard theme in the stories?

SS: I describe the stories in categories of shocking, dramatic and the mundane (slice of life.) I would say the mundane stories tend to be the most frequent of the three, especially when it comes to frequent storytellers. The shocking stories are always the first ones to come to mind, but it’s the simple stories that keep people returning. The ordinary slice of life stories happen every day, so they tend to be the lifeblood of my opening monologues.

LM: What percentage of stories are happy vs harrowing?

SS: I’d say it’s close to an even split. Some shows follow a theme that wasn’t planned out ahead of time. One story leads to a similar story. Suddenly a conversation breaks out between myself as host and the audience, because I like to keep a hot topic going. By the time the audience members step up to the mic for audience anecdotes, we could have five or six stories on the same theme, within the theme of getting around LA without driving.

LM: Do story-tellers generally like depending on public transportation or are they somehow/sometimes bitter or angry?

SS: There is a love/have relationship between the storytellers and LA publc transit, but for the most part, we (the non-motorists) tend to wear it like a badge of honor. Very little bitterness.

LM: It seems BUSted brings people together in discussing a shared experience.  Elaborate?

SS: LA has a well earned reputation for having a massive car culture built into it’s fabric. For many years, the thought among people was that “Only a nobody walks in LA,” as the Missing Persons sang. It turns out that we were not freaks or losers, but just ahead of the curve, or at least riding a different path. The community element comes from the way we all recognize each other’s stories as part of our own personal stories. We recognize incidents and characters, and in tat our shared experience can become extremely meta. Being iLos angeles where there are so many colorful characters, only makes the excitement and randomness of a shared commute experience more extreme. Even the craziest stories often have people in the audience nodding their heads and simply responding, “Yup!”

LM: If the LA transportation system was better, let’s say as good as San Francisco, London, or New York, would there still be good stories?

SS: Yes. LA’s system is already better than NYC and San Francisco. I’ve never been to London, but I did get drunk on free party booze and interrupt a conversation with the London minister of Transportation. Nice guy.

LM: You have a former RTD driver as a regular.  Have you gotten support or condemnation from the city?

SS: We actually have a lot of former and current drivers from both RTD and LA metro sharing stories at our shows. We even had a senior planner from LA Metro. I’m not so sure the city knows we exist, at least on the City hall level. The heads of he public transit agencies are familiar with me. Some are fans, others hope we’ll go away. True stories tend to cut both ways. I’d say at this time that it is mostly positive.

LM: Have the stories changed with the advent of Uber?

SS: Ubers sometimes enter the community of BUSted stories, but I try to keep them separate. Sometimes if the Uber is incorporated into the commute, or if they are long time storytellers who I know are taking Uber specifically because they don’t drive. I tend to think public transit is more interesting. Uber vehicles are too antiseptic.

LM: There seems to be a bit of spirituality to the shows.  Care to elaborate

SS: Sometimes the spirituality depends on my mood on any given day. I think it comes from my Boston storytelling background. Boston’s storytelling scene tends to be a bit more populist than the Big 3 storytelling cities (NYC/Chicago/Los Angeles) which tend to come from the improv comedy circuit. As a host I tend to harp on recurring topics like being a good “bus ambassador,” which is spiritual talk for “Don’t be a douchebag.” We are also pro immigrant and tend to have a lot of humanity in our stories. Our subject matter tends skews lower income, and lower income people tend to be better people in general.

LM: You’re one of the most supportive producer/hosts around.  Tell Larf Magazine how you do it.

SS: Thanks, but I don’t share company secrets. (joking) I think that it is a combination of my background coming out of the storytelling rooms in Boston and Cambridge that go back decades, and also my show is built on community. We literally run on people power. I genuinely enjoy meeting new people and hearing their stories. When people are new to storytelling, I like to encourage them to participate by keeping it casual. I am fortunate to have a really supportive venue that allows me to pass the supportive buck down to my guests on the mic and in the audience. Legal weed keeps me mellow.

LM: From what you’ve heard and personally experienced, what’s the one thing you would do if you were all powerful mayor to improve public transportation?

SS: If I could only do one thing, I would make myself a lifetime pass for all publc transit, non-rescindable. That way, I’d always be able to get places. I’d do a few things. I’d ticket the hell out of motorists! Those crosswalks would be efficient enough for a baby to crawl across. I would also create more dedicated lanes for rapid line busses, running on an electrical grid, like they do in the San Fernando Valley. I’d remove extra charges for Silver Line and freeway accessing busses. I would make the subways run 24 hours, and I would have track maintenance done between 11pm – 5am. I would begin making preparation for Boring hyper-tunnels, like the one suggested by Elon Musk, and I would also begin preparing legislation for aerial vehicles now, since they will arrive sooner, rather than later.

LM: Do you find the vast expanse of Los Angeles helps in its diversity of transportation stories?

SS: Yes. I love how LA has so many different types of areas and ethnic pockets as well. LA is half the size of Massachusetts, it has mountains, deserts and beaches. I wish it had more bathrooms.

LM: Where do you see BUSted a year from now?

SS: At our home terminal in Echo Park, Stories Books & Café! Also, hopefully, we will be producing Spanish language shows. I would like to bring the show to a point where we can produce weekly shows and cove the entire county more completely.

LM: Have you ever thought of taking BUSted to The Edinburgh Fringe Festival?

SS: I don’t know enough about the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I don’t know how they would react to stories about Los Angeles, and even more specifically about Los Angeles non-motorist culture.

LM: Could you ever envision a television show or movie based on the BUSted stories?

SS: Absolutely. Huell Howser is one of my heroes. I think that it could be a way to show different parts of the city, the state and the country. I think that would be really neat. You don’ have to fly to the opposite side of the word to find adventure and interesting people. Hit a random US city, and ride the bus for a few days. Yesterday, I rode around on busses and trains with a news crew for an upcoming news feature on the show. During the rides, I spoke with a Rose Bowl security guard who wants the world to know that Kobe Bryant swipes VIP seats for concerts, a man who was a walking audio book for Hollywood Babylon Volume One and a man who got shot 14 times in his leg! I have had people propose a few movie ideas to me based on my stories. At some point, I will likely write a script, but that is a very different style of writing for me.

And, just at that propitious moment, a police helicopter shown its light on us Hollywood sign perchers.  Guess it’s time to move on; grab the bus…

Sag

Scott Schultz was born in Boston, MA. I grew up in Marblehead, MA. He moved to CA when he was 18 via Greyhound Bus. He moved to Los Angeles to pursue standup comedy in the 1990’s. Scott has worked as a sports editor and in advertising. He began storytelling in Boston in 2012. In 2013, Scott Schultz won the Massmouth grandslam (The Big Mouthoff) and shortly thereafter moved to Los Angeles. He began BUSted five years ago. Scott is a huge fan of the Boston Celtics, and he has two feral yard cats named Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving.

NEXT BUSted Show

BUSted website

For Larf Magazine, this is Steven Alan Green.

9/27/18

 

The Myth Council Handbook – A novel by Steven Alan Green / Chapter Three: A Zombie Christmas

Meanwhile, somewhere on the North Pole, an event is about to occur which will have eternal worldwide consequences of epic proportion; no exaggeration, even though I wrote this book: Trust me.  It’s big…

The barren snow bound terrain is spotted with a small cottage; a glow of a fire and smoke from the chimney tells us there’s potentially happy life inside. Looking up towards the sparkling black sky, we see a small object, getting closer and closer to us. It’s Santa Claus in his sleigh. We hear the faint chanting of “Ho-Ho-Ho!” as the sleigh pulls into the driveway in front of the house. Santa gets out and grabs a shopping bag full of pretzels and beer. He sings to himself, The Killer’s hit, “Human,” as he searches for the keys to the front door.

…are we human…or are we dancers…

He has trouble holding the shopping bag as he tries to find his key. He knocks. Nobody answers, he peers through the steamed up window and sees Mrs. Claus losing it (once again) with an elf. He presses his ear up against the window.

“I thought I said a thousand times, if I found one more elf condom in the trash, I was going to have a stroke! These damn tiny things go in the toilet! Besides, don’t you little guys ever get enough?!”

The elf tries to defend himsELF; doesn’t matter, she’s not buying it.

“That wasn’t mine! I told you, I’m the gay elf. I use a blue condom and that one’s red!”

“Well, whatever, twinkle-toes…whoever left this in the trash, their dick is gonna be black and blue when I get through with them!”

Santa slowly turns and tiptoes back to the sleigh just when the front door opens. An elf comes running after him.

Hey! Wait up!

Santa keeps going. “She’s in one of her…” (making sarcastic quote gesture) ‘moods’ again. I’m sorry. I’m feeling too jolly for this shit…I’m outta here!” Santa gets back in his sleigh, grabbing the reigns. “Rise, rise in flight of magic, Donner and Blitzen and bring us to the magical airs of the clouds….”

The sleigh begins to wobble, as if it’s about to take off, when off in the near distance, a woman’s stern cold voice calls from behind him.

“Well, if it ain’t Mr. Presents and Fucking Joy!  And, where the fuckity fuck do you think you’re going!”

Santa freezes (even more) and turns. The sleigh stops moving. All the reindeer look around. Mrs. Claus is standing in the doorway, holding an elf by the scruff of the neck, a kitchen knife to his balls.

“Get your big jolly red ass back in here immediately or the midget freak gets a non-elective vasectomy!”

“Do what the bee-atch says!” pleads the elf, barely able to squeeze out each syllable.

The inside of the Claus home is something right out of the 1959 Sears and Roebuck catalog.  Pine furniture, but with all the hallmarks of having a dozen friggin’ elves living and partying there for over a century.  Santa paces in front of the fireplace, as Mrs. Claus knits a pot-holder in the shape of a gun.  He tries to find the right words; the right moment.

“Look…what the hell do you want from me?  This is my job. My chosen profession. I work one day a year.”

“But it’s one a hellova shift,” whispers one elf to another before they giggle.

Santa looks around, annoyed to find all the elves eavesdropping behind the cracked-open doorway.  But, Mrs. Claus ain’t done with him just yet.

“Ha! You are a relic. What with the Internet, people can buy their own Christmas gifts without ever getting up off their fat American asses! You’re kidding yourself. You are obsolete and the sooner you face it, the sooner we can pack up this so-called ‘business’ and go down to live with my sister in Florida.”  She knits one; pearls two around the trigger.

“I’m not living with that Jew-hating sister of yours,” says a now I’m pissed Santa.

“Why? You’re not Jewish!  You’re not even Christian!  You’re in fact a mythical figure created by the English back in the 16th century during the reign of Mr. Chop off Their Heads Because Rome Wouldn’t Sanction Divorce Henry the VIII, 4 centuries before the Coca Cola Company commercialized yo ass to sell more of their cocaine infused black drink of death in 1931.”

“I don’t like your sister. She smells of cat pee. Besides, I have my life’s work up here.”

Handing him a letter, “That’s what you think, mistletoe breath!”

What’s this?” and Santa reads aloud, incredulous and crumbling…

“Dear Mr. Santa H. Claus, North Pole…Further to our very painful reassessment…”

The Myth Council Chief Accountant –now wearing an off-color ill-fitting toupee (apparently made of ostrich feathers) — dictates into his vocal tube as Miss Williams picks up Beavis’s smoldering clothing remains and tosses them into the trash.

“…the Myth Council has had to make some very harsh cuts this year, and unfortunately, we regret to inform you that we cannot afford your annual worldwide effort to bring presents…”

The Ostrich grabs the Accountant’s feather toupee.  Back at the North Pole, Santa is in shock as he continues to read the letter.

“…and joy to all the innocent children of the world. We wish you luck and should you seek either other employment or benefits, please contact the relevant departments. That is all. Signed: PJ Walsingham, Head Accountant Myth Council Services PS: Happy Chanukah.”

Santa looking up from the letter is in tears.

“What about all the little children?” he asks the heavens.

Mrs. Claus takes the lit cigarette out of her mouth .

“Listen to me, you naive pedophile lookin’ waste of fat and flesh, I told you nearly a half century ago, those unappreciative little dust mites aren’t worth the beard you dribble on….” 

Crushing out the cigarette, crushing it out into the image of Santa’s face on a doily  as if she enjoys extinguishing any life, she continues her assault on her husband of over a century.

“If I were you, I’d count your blessings and look for some other kind of work. I have my needs ya, know. I can’t keep living on that…” (makes sarcastic quote gestures) ‘overstocked return last year’s fashion’ shit you keep bringing me. And, by the way, Mr. Friggen Sleigh Bells, corduroy is out!” (to herself as she knits) “I shoulda married the Headless Horseman when I had the chance. At least he never talked back!”

As she carries on complaining, Santa, in shock, makes his way out of the room, grabs a gift bottle of whiskey and passes all the elves, who have been eavesdropping.

“We’re fucked,” blurts one elf.  “Not if I can help it,” counters another as they  watch Santa open the font door and stagger outside. Santa, drinking heavily out of a fifth of Jack Daniels, heads for his sleigh. Two elves sneak around and load up Santa’s Christmas big red gift bag into the back of the sleigh, as Santa gets his fat ass in the driver’s seat, straps himself in and cracks the reigns.

“Elves! Reindeer! Come join me on one final ride!” Santa belches. “Oh, excuse me, ” as all the rest of the elves rush up to him.

“Santa! Don’t do this! Come back and chill out! It’s okay!” several elves say in conversational harmony.

Elf One arrives at the sleigh, as Santa picks up the reins.

“Santa! What the fuck are you doing!”

What is it, Aloysius?,” belches the old man, as a second elf joins the debate.

“Please don’t do this. Stick around, let’s come up with a solution…together!” squeaks the little voice.  Santa grabs the little man by his collar, lifting him up to his nasty drunken breath; the elf’s feet dangling in air.

“I never liked you Elves. You’re all too…” (belching in the Elf’s face) “…short! 

Santa drops him in the snow and snaps the whip. The reindeer take off, pulling the sleigh into the heavens, Santa barely heard as he disappears into the snowy horizon, drunk singing in liberation.

“Kiss my ass, kiss my ass, kiss it all the way, suck my…”

We stare at the blank black night sky, until, until, something begins to appear on the black horizon.  It’s getting bigger and closer and we hear the faint hollering of a very drunk old man. And suddenly zooming right in front of us is Santa in full escape mode.

“Merrrry Christmas!!!”

Santa is beyond drunk. The nearly empty fifth of Jack D. in one hand and the reign in the other, Santa yells at his flight crew, as he flies over the countryside.

“Dommer! Blichin! Rudolf, you mother fucker! Move your ass!” (to himself)
“Obsolete. Useless! Internet! Inter- schmett!”

He takes another swig of whiskey.

“I’ll show them, with their budgets and projections! Useless jobs- worth cocksuckers…”

Santa lets go of the reign and holds the bottle upside down over his mouth, hoping a last drop will drip. It doesn’t. The town of Belleview begins to come into view below the horizon.

“Oh, fuck it,” as he tosses the bottle, drops the reigns, turns around, reaches in the backseat of the sleigh, which begins to violently wobble out of control. “Now, there’s always a bottle in one of these damn gifts.”

Santa riffles through his gift bag, finds a present that feels heavy and looks like it might be liquor. He opens it. It’s a bowling pin.  A row of high and thick trees are now clearly in his flight-path.

“I hate Scrabble!”

He looks where he’s headed. “Fffffuuuuucccccckkkkk!!!!”

He covers his face with his arms. The sleigh flies over the trees, taking some branches with it. “Ouch!” Then, it’s gone. Then, a faint crash. Santa has landed.

The crash site. The sleigh is totaled way past its deductible. Santa and the reindeer all lie in eerie motionlessness.  Our mind’s camera holds on this eerie tableau.  And just as we don’t know what to think, the spirits of the dead reindeer all float out and up like purposeful mist.  They reaches an apex, congealing into one while amorphous cloud in the shape of one reindeer ghost, which turns round, purposely making its way down the chimney.  As our mind’s eye moves down the building we read a sign and it all begins to make sense now.  Belleview Mortuary.

Our floor level view, accompanied by the sound of footsteps, enters the dark Victorian foyer.  A man hums Rudolf, the Rednose Reindeer until it suddenly doesn’t.  The night watchman turns his head to check an alarm, as the spirits of the dead reindeer sweep past his feet and disappear round the corner.  The footsteps pick up again, making their routinely way through the back hallway, past the chapel and into the back where the “works” reside.  The inventory.  The corpses.

We stare at a double metal door, with one little glass and chicken-wire round window. We pull closer until we are now peering through the glass, but it’s too dark to see inside, where the reindeer spirits routinely climb and envelop first one corpse, then all of one dozen of them.  The round little wire mesh glass window on the door to the corpse room fogs up.   The night watchman in his usual tedium and frustration.

“Goddamn rats!” The night watchman, a man a few paychecks past his retirement, closes the inner door behind him and locks it, all the while whistling “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” He passes a sign: “ASK ABOUT OUR PAY-AS-YOU-GO PLAN”

One by one, each corpse unzips itself from its body-bag like reveille call at a dead army barracks. The first zombie to free himself, yawns and stretches his arms as if waking up from a long sleep. He turns his head to the reader and growls.

Outside the building, the night watchman closes and locks the main gate. He walks to his car and opens the door. His cell phone rings.

“Now, where did I put that goddamn thing?  When I was young, we left our phones at home….And our wives…” He finds his phone.

“Have you been naughty or nice?” asks the weird gravelly voice on the other end.

“Who the hell is this? Is that you, Morty? Always the joker…”

The phone clicks off.

“Hello?…Hello?” He hangs up. “Pranksters! Punks! Teenagers!”

“Are you unhappy? Hi! My name’s Arlene.”

https://goo.gl/images/RLJTDqThe Night-watchman swings around and sees Arlene. She is fat. She’s a zombie.  She’s Arlene, the fat zombie.  She approaches him.

“Would you like to be friends? I just wanna be friends.”

Squirming her to a comfortable distance, “Lady, I’ve had a long day. You are obviously very lost.”

“Lost? Why no! I’m just very lonely. Would you like to be friends? I could really use a friend right now.  And what I mean by friends…”

Arlene puts her cold gray dead fat hand on his arm.

“Listen, you just get your weird fat goth-like hooker ass outta here. Besides…I’m a family man!”

“Okay! If that is your request, I just want to make you happy!”  Arlene “Zombie-Walks” (sleepwalking with open eyes) away. The Night-Watchman gets in his car and starts the engine. He puts on his seat belt and adjusts the rear-view mirror. He thinks he sees something. It’s nothing. He’s very agitated.

“I gotta start drinking again.” 

The night watchman drives, singing along to the bouncy music of “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” on the radio. He passes Arlene the Fat Zombie, Zombie-Walking down the road.

“Rudolf the Red nosed Reindeer…Had a very shiny… I could use a friend!… HA!…Spooky-lookin’ fat broad!”

Flashing police lights behind him and in his rear view. He looks. Then a siren.

“Shit! Can’t an American workingman just get home on Christmas Eve?!”

He pulls his car off to the side and turns off the engine. The patrol car pulls up behind him, bathing his car in red flashing lights.  A man in uniform gets out and slowly walks up to the night watchman’s car.

The night watchman waits as we hear slow deliberate footsteps on the gravel approach. The cop walks up to the car window, but we can’t see his face. We can only see his uniform from the neck down. He shines a very bright flashlight in the night watchman’s eyes. His voice sounds gravelly and unreal.

“May I see your license and registration please, sir?”

“Yeah, ah sure, officer. I assure you everything is up to date.”

He hands both to the patrolman, who briefly holds them, then hands them back, never actually looking at them.

Whatever the problem is officer, can’t we just forget it? After all it is Christmas Eve!

The Cop doesn’t answer, just stands there, face out of view.

I mean, you work hard, I work hard, we all work hard, and besides, Peace on Earth…and…

Frighteningly and suddenly, the cop lowers his head and places his face in the car window.  What we see is shocking.  In a police uniform and hat is a living corpse.  His face that of a skull with half the skin missing, the eyeballs black and blood pouring from his mouth.  Which then says in a horrible voice…

“Bad will towards men!”

The horrible crunching sounds and screams go on and on for 30 seconds.  Followed by the continuous car horn, indicating the night watchman’s dead.  The zombie policeman calmly walks to his car, humming Rudolf, the Red Nosed Reindeer, gets in and takes off down the road.

Slightly up the road the other way, the real dead policeman lies face down in nothing but a tee-shirt and underwear and missing his head.  So face down is really just an expression at this point.

Up the road slightly further, Santa in his sleigh, and all the reindeer all laying motionless on the mortuary roof.

END CHAPTER THREE….

Image result for copyright symbol2018 Steven Alan Green for Larf Magazine

Chapter One of The Myth Council Handbook

Chapter Two of The Myth Council Handbook