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9 Odd Demands on the Riders of Comedians

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Comedians are an eccentric bunch, and they need some strange things to get in the performing mood. Over the years, The Smoking Gun has collected riders that include examples of unorthodox items or requests that might not make sense to those of us that stick to sitting in the audience; here are 11 of them.

1. CARROT TOP — “PLEASE NO CARROT CAKE”

Carrot Top, a.k.a. Scott Thompson, knows that he is perceived as a hack to many people. Carrot Top’s self-awareness and self-deprecation appeared in a 2002 rider, where he began his stipulations for dinner with: “PLEASE NO CARROT CAKE - IT’S STILL NOT FUNNY!” The remainder of the supper stipulations are crossed out, but it’s easy to see that at some point Carrot Top and his crew enjoyed a Spaghetti Night on Wednesdays, an Omaha Steak Night on Saturdays and a Taco Night to end the weekend on a delicious note.

2. ZACH GALIFIANAKIS — PERFECT OFFICE PRODUCTS

All things considered, Zach Galifianakis doesn’t come off as high-maintenance as the other celebrities with multi-page riders. For example, instead of a wide variety of beverages, he only desires one bottle of Syrah and one large bottle of flat water. When it comes to those big flip charts that he sometimes uses in his act, however, Galifianakis gets very specific:

“Two (2) large flip charts (plain white, 50 pages each, 27" X 34"). Office Depot item #597862 "Recycled easel pads" or Staples item #572867 MUST be used, no exceptions. They sell them two to a pack, so one pack is fine.“

Zach also requires three Sharpie magnum permanent markers, with “no exceptions or substitutes.” His management claim they’re hard to find and may need to be ordered, with a link to the relevant Sharpie URL.

3. LARRY THE CABLE GUY — HOOTERS STYLE WINGS

Dan Whitney is best—or only—known for his Larry the Cable Guy persona. According to his rider, Whitney tries to keep up with the blue-collar character dietarily. According to a leaked rider of the successful comedian (Whitney is guaranteed $155,000 per gig), Whitney insists on “50 ‘Hooters Style’ chicken wings (medium), blue cheese dressing,” and “4 cans of Skoal/Berry Blend Long Cut Tobacco (purple can).”

Whitney also requests a box of Multi-Grain Wheat Thins and no processed meats. He contains multitudes.

4. JERRY LEWIS — PLEASE DON’T TALK ABOUT MY CHARITY

Jerry Lewis made his mark on the world with his slapstick comedy, but some only associate him with the Muscular Dystrophy Association telethons that he hosted every Labor Day weekend from 1966 until 2011. Possibly because of this, Lewis and/or his representation make it very clear (ALL CAPS) that his charity work is not to be mentioned in promoting his shows:

“REFERENCE TO JERRY LEWIS AND THE MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY ASSOCIATION TO PROMOTE A CONCERT OR PERSONAL APPEARANCE WILL RESULT IN THE CANCELLATION OF THE AGREEMENT BETWEEN THAT PARTICULAR VENUE AND JERRY LEWIS.”

Other little quirks from the seven-page rider include the fact that while Lewis and one guest fly first class, the other four members of his party have to fly business class; the stage floor must be suitable for tap dancing; and two long-stemmed carnations must be delivered backstage no later than one hour prior to showtime.

5. PENN & TELLER — “MR. JILLETTE EATS FIRE.”

There is a lot of technical talk in Penn & Teller’s 2001 rider, but the dangers behind the group’s tricks have become so commonplace for them that there are some unintended fun juxtapositions. The catering section reads—in all capital letters—that someone in the group or crew is allergic to eggplant, and it should therefore be avoided. Also, the boys and their crew really like their coffee and water: “COFFEE AND BOTTLED WATER MUST BE PROVIDED FOR THE ENTIRE TIME WE ARE PRESENT BEGINNING WITH OUR LOAD IN. NO KIDDING!!!” Conversely, on the final page that is dedicated to the fire safety precautions, it is casually written in normal, understated lettering that “Mr. Jillette also eats fire. For this he uses small torches which fit into his mouth.”

6. JOAN RIVERS — 65 DEGREES OR ELSE

Joan Rivers has been performing for a long time, and she knows what she wants, down to the most specific of details. According to a 1998 rider, her stool must be a “30-inch black, standard wooden, backless stool with a seat covered in black Duvatin,” and it must be “extremely sturdy” due to Rivers’ propensity to stand on it during shows. The temperature at the venue cannot exceed 65 degrees. It is clearly stated that the toilet seat must have a lid. One 19-inch television in perfect working order is required in the dressing room, as well as a demand for one oxygen mask.

7. BOB SAGET — CLEAN OPENING ACT

According to a 2005 document, Bob Saget and his management provide copy for how Saget’s stand-up shows should be advertised, emphasizing the entertainment value of seeing the “clean cut, boyishly charming” man who played Danny Tanner performing dirty material. Since the audience knew what to expect, Saget’s restrictions on his opening act were strange:

“Opening act subject to Artist's approval. Artist approved opener must not have dirty material and must not use a guitar or any other musical instrument as part of their act.”

8. DAVID SPADE — NERF

As far as the food and beverages requested by David Spade on his rider, nothing seems out of the ordinary. The one item on the rider that does seem a little out of place would have to be the Nerf football.

9. DANIEL TOSH — READING MATERIAL

A 2010 Daniel Tosh rider stipulates that the comedian’s dressing room should contain “four bottles of Smart Water, an assortment of decaffeinated teas, hot water for the iced tea, a bottle or jar of honey and several fresh lemons.” That’s pretty reasonable and not out of the ordinary, outside of the fact that usually celebrities request more items. It’s the one seemingly tossed-off sentence that is its own paragraph under the Miscellaneous section that’s a bit strange:

For college dates, please provide a book you think Daniel might like to read.

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New Program Trains Dogs to Sniff Out Art Smugglers
Penn Vet Working Dog Center
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

Soon, the dogs you see sniffing out contraband at airports may not be searching for drugs or smuggled Spanish ham. They might be looking for stolen treasures.

K-9 Artifact Finders, a new collaboration between New Hampshire-based cultural heritage law firm Red Arch and the University of Pennsylvania, is training dogs to root out stolen antiquities looted from archaeological sites and museums. The dogs would be stopping them at borders before the items can be sold elsewhere on the black market.

The illegal antiquities trade nets more than $3 billion per year around the world, and trafficking hits countries dealing with ongoing conflict, like Syria and Iraq today, particularly hard. By one estimate, around half a million artifacts were stolen from museums and archaeological sites throughout Iraq between 2003 and 2005 alone. (Famously, the craft-supply chain Hobby Lobby was fined $3 million in 2017 for buying thousands of ancient artifacts looted from Iraq.) In Syria, the Islamic State has been known to loot and sell ancient artifacts including statues, jewelry, and art to fund its operations.

But the problem spans across the world. Between 2007 and 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Control discovered more than 7800 cultural artifacts in the U.S. looted from 30 different countries.

A yellow Lab sniffs a metal cage designed to train dogs on scent detection.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

K-9 Artifact Finders is the brainchild of Rick St. Hilaire, the executive director of Red Arch. His non-profit firm researches cultural heritage property law and preservation policy, including studying archaeological site looting and antiquities trafficking. Back in 2015, St. Hilaire was reading an article about a working dog trained to sniff out electronics that was able to find USB drives, SD cards, and other data storage devices. He wondered, if dogs could be trained to identify the scents of inorganic materials that make up electronics, could they be trained to sniff out ancient pottery?

To find out, St. Hilaire tells Mental Floss, he contacted the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, a research and training center for detection dogs. In December 2017, Red Arch, the Working Dog Center, and the Penn Museum (which is providing the artifacts to train the dogs) launched K-9 Artifact Finders, and in late January 2018, the five dogs selected for the project began their training, starting with learning the distinct smell of ancient pottery.

“Our theory is, it is a porous material that’s going to have a lot more odor than, say, a metal,” says Cindy Otto, the executive director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center and the project’s principal investigator.

As you might imagine, museum curators may not be keen on exposing fragile ancient materials to four Labrador retrievers and a German shepherd, and the Working Dog Center didn’t want to take any risks with the Penn Museum’s priceless artifacts. So instead of letting the dogs have free rein to sniff the materials themselves, the project is using cotton balls. The researchers seal the artifacts (broken shards of Syrian pottery) in airtight bags with a cotton ball for 72 hours, then ask the dogs to find the cotton balls in the lab. They’re being trained to disregard the smell of the cotton ball itself, the smell of the bag it was stored in, and ideally, the smell of modern-day pottery, eventually being able to zero in on the smell that distinguishes ancient pottery specifically.

A dog looks out over the metal "pinhweel" training mechanism.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

“The dogs are responding well,” Otto tells Mental Floss, explaining that the training program is at the stage of "exposing them to the odor and having them recognize it.”

The dogs involved in the project were chosen for their calm-but-curious demeanors and sensitive noses (one also works as a drug-detection dog when she’s not training on pottery). They had to be motivated enough to want to hunt down the cotton balls, but not aggressive or easily distracted.

Right now, the dogs train three days a week, and will continue to work on their pottery-detection skills for the first stage of the project, which the researchers expect will last for the next nine months. Depending on how the first phase of the training goes, the researchers hope to be able to then take the dogs out into the field to see if they can find the odor of ancient pottery in real-life situations, like in suitcases, rather than in a laboratory setting. Eventually, they also hope to train the dogs on other types of objects, and perhaps even pinpoint the chemical signatures that make artifacts smell distinct.

Pottery-sniffing dogs won’t be showing up at airport customs or on shipping docks soon, but one day, they could be as common as drug-sniffing canines. If dogs can detect low blood sugar or find a tiny USB drive hidden in a house, surely they can figure out if you’re smuggling a sculpture made thousands of years ago in your suitcase.

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