Three straight nights of Brooklyn Mics turned out to be just what the doctor ordered.
On Wednesday I tried out an open mic at the Bellville Lounge in Park Slope, which Gregory Quinn trivia buffs will recall is the same neighborhood where I did my first New York City show at the Root Hill Café.
The Belleville Lounge was a small place - maybe the size of a middle-school classroom. It was barely lit, the only light coming from the tea candles on the tables, and a few, sparse gas lamps hanging on the corners. The dearth of light muted the paint on the walls; different hues of brown, beige and black melted into each other, making the whole place look like the inside of a cappuccino.
This mic wasn’t exclusively comedy, and it was nice to hear something other then the usual parade of dick jokes. (Of which I am certainly guilty.) The musicians were surprisingly excellent, a nice variety of singer-songwriter sincerity and country-rock banality. My set went very well. The audience was receptive and polite, and I seemed to grow on them as my time went on. A number of them came up to me afterward to offer a good word. For the first time in New York, I failed to stay the entire show. But approaching midnight, with a 45-minute walk still to go, I decided to bundle up and brave the frigid night air.
On Thursday I was in Williamsburg, at the Taco Tacu on N. 6th Street. The comedy took place in the basement, in another dimly-lit haven. The walls were lined in crème-orange padding, and the seats were similar-colored ottomans or faux leather couches. It was as if Macdonald’s designed a line of mental hospitals. The comedy was scheduled from 8 until 10pm, with a karaoke party to follow. The closer it got to 10, the more people in the audience who were confused and slightly annoyed to find comedy in the basement. A party stage left was celebrating a young ladies birthday, and more partygoers arrived as the show went on. By the time I took the mic around 9:40, the birthday party had swelled almost 30 deep. They were a raucous bunch. They were dolled up and greasy, awash in make-up and hair-gel or some other amalgam of creams and lotions, looking exactly like the pampered inhabitants of reality shows they were clearly (or instinctively) trying to emulate.
They heckled the shit out of me.
But it wasn’t awful. I proclaimed immediately that I was from Boston, and I insinuated in so many words that their beloved Yankee shortstop has an alarming affinity for fellatio. They did not like this one bit. They screamed and hollered and insinuated with just one word that I myself may be a homosexual. Being called gay by drunken people doesn’t really rattle me -- I went to high school. They eventually calmed down, and carried on with their remarkably clichéd existence.
Friday night was easily the best of the bunch. This time I was at the Williamsburg Art Room. Located in Bushwick. The WAR is not an easy place to find. It’s on the corner of Ingraham and Morgan, a section lined with small abandoned warehouses and desolate, horror-movie-ready alleys. The WAR gives no indication to its presence, and when I found myself at 35 Ingraham, staring at a black garage door and not a window in sight, I was certain I had written down the wrong address. But after a few frantic phone calls, I was reassured this was the correct address.
There indeed was a bar at 35 Ingraham. It was a wide open room that looked like someone cleared out their two-car garage and threw in some lawn chairs. The wall to the front was white and unadorned, and would be used after the comedy show to project giant clips of Michael Jackson news bulletins.
Before the show, I waited out by the front door for my friend Lisa because I feared she would never the find the place if I didn’t. Lisa is engaged to be married to my best friend since childhood, and he will be moving to New York City soon. More and more people I like and care about are living in the city, and it’s making it feel more and more like home. I offered to buy Lisa a drink, but not surprisingly the WAR didn’t take debit and I had no cash. She bought her own. I suck at these types of things.
The show was uniformly excellent, the first show I’ve seen in New York that rivaled the best I’d been a part of in Boston. The show was produced by Brooklyn Underground Comedy and hosted by comic Jackie Cheng, who was delightful. She asked me if I wouldn’t mind going first, and even though I really did, I said I didn’t. I did around ten minutes and my jokes went over well. Afterward I sat back down next to Lisa and we debated how wise it would be to eat from the bucket of bar pretzels, especially considering neither bathroom had a sink. Eventually out hunger got the best of us.
After the show, we rode the L train back into Manhattan with a couple of the other comics headed in similar directions. Lisa and I parted at Union Square and I rode to Franklin Ave with Rae, another comedian, and she made pleasant company.
Today, a blizzard is hitting Brooklyn, and I won’t be doing any comedy. I may however, get drunk and walk around Prospect Park in the snow. A nice end to a good week.