A minimal comedy weekend was in order after the disaster that was Friday’s midnight show. For the first time since moving to New York City, I worked some jobs for pay. Over the weekend I started my new career as a food demonstrator at a Stop and Shop in the ominously named Brooklyn neighborhood of Gravesend.
For those intrigued, a food demonstrator sets up at supermarkets and hands out samples of whichever product they have been hired to push. On my first day, I was doling out free samples of Starbucks Ice Cream. Have you ever visited a Dairy Queen or a TCBY, and a thoughtful employee offered you a sample of ice cream to help you decide? Now imagine if that thoughtful employee’s only job was handing out those samples. That’s pretty much what I do.
As pathetic as it all sounds, (and is, really) I did manage to run into some interesting characters. One particular man, with a forceful, perhaps Russian accent (if I were inclined to guess), came within inches of my face, and looked me dead in the eye.
“I need you listen to me very carefully,” he says. “I need you tell me where the female products are. Do you know what I mean when I say female products?”
A couple of old acquaintances happened to bump into each other right in front of my table. They were elated to see one another, and despite showing no interest in a free spoonful of Starbucks Java Chip Frappachino ice cream, proceeded to stay right in front of my table, where they carried on a conversation for over an hour! I’m serious; I timed it. It did not take long for the conversation to switch from niceties to a full rundown of each parent’s recent medical troubles. Apparently, the woman’s father was having a considerable amount of problems with his colon.
“My father…my father, the doctor’s noticed a lot of blood in his stool.” The woman informed.
“Huh?” the man asked.
“My father, it’s his rectum.” She makes an exaggerated hand gesture toward her rectum, to clarify.
“IT’S HIS RECTUM! HE’S BLEEDING FROM HIS RECTUM!”
This conversation went on for so long, with such a majority of it focusing on bleeding from one’s rectum that I swore I was on some Candid Camera. I thought any minute I would flip out and tell the couple to take their anal hemorrhaging tales elsewhere, and then they would burst out laughing and a guy with a camera and a host would walk out. They eventually parted, leaving me with buckets of Caramel Macchiato to hand to the masses. The whole job seemed so pathetic. But considering I was paid to do this job, and I’ve made zero dollars doing comedy in New York, it’s fair to say I’m a far more successful food demonstrator then stand-up comedian.
But I really needed a comedy free couple of days anyway, even if it meant constantly explaining to the elderly that Starbucks makes an ice cream now. Friday’s show, while not anywhere near my worst show, was among my most disappointing. I am reluctant to get into to many details. It’s hard, performing – working – not only for free, but so often at the expense of my dignity, and the burden of my friends. You would think in return for so much free labor, comics would be thrown a bone every now and then, but it just seems to make us more vulnerable for exploitation.
I wasn’t aware of it going in, but there was a booker at the show on Friday, an industry man. It was a tough room to be critiqued in; 2:30 in the morning, 7 people in the audience. I talked to the man afterward. He said he liked me and said I was far along for someone so new. He said I seemed like a smart kid, maybe I shouldn’t write so many sex jokes. I do have a lot of those.