Sunday, October 31, 2010

Subway Vision

Happy Halloween, everyone. At the time of writing, it’s 8:32 pm on October 31, and I’m shoeless on the couch writing on my laptop. I only point this out because it’s such an anomaly. My past seven October 31sts circa 8:32 have found me: a drunk cavemen, a drunk Titanic-passenger zombie (thanks Nick), a drunk train hobo asleep in the Atlantic ocean, a drunk Geico cavemen, a drunk un-costumed guy at my dad’s house, a un-costumed volunteer for a children’s party at a Methodist Church (and drunk) and a drunk classic television character getting ready to move to New York in a few hours.

Little different this year. Not that 2010 has been an uneventful Halloween weekend: I’ve already been a slightly buzzed crazy JetBlue flight attendant, a sober Peter Pan shadow, and a probably-should-have-been-drunk Walter White from Breaking Bad.  It’s just that Halloween night falls on a Sunday and I have an actual job to attend in the morning and more importantly I have a blog quota to fill. So here I am, like Kobe, Doin’ Work.

This past Thursday I was at Port 41 in Hell’s Kitchen for the Brooklyn Comedy Underground’s one year birthday party.  This was the second time I’ve performed at Port 41. The first was way back in July and was attended by none other then Boston rock legends The Okay Win. I had long regretted not blogging about that show because Port 41 is so... unique. When the opportunity came along to perform there again, I jumped on it, mainly so I’d be able to finally write about the one-of-a-kind Port 41 and its bikini-clad wait-staff.

Located a couple avenues west of the Port Authority, Port 41 is a relic of the pre-Rudy Giuliani Midtown. (Not a Midtown I ever experienced, of course. A Midtown a pubescent Gregory could only fantasize about in his wildest dreams.)  Port 41 isn’t a strip club technically; the bartenders are wearing bikini tops and I’ve heard rumors there is underwear somewhere up there, tucked between there butt cheeks.  But not being a strip joint does not “class up” Port 41. The lack of actual nudity does not make the proceedings any more tasteful or subtle. Port 41 is about as subtle as a roll of toilet paper next to the computer.

In other words, if you look up sleazy on Google Image, Port 41 comes up. The old saying was “if you look up [blank] in the dictionary…” or “if you look up [blank] in a textbook…” but since Google has rendered both those things irrelevant, I think the saying should be updated. Here’s the first image to come up when you Google-image “sleazy:”

Not Port 41 exactly, but surprisingly close.  

(I like this new idea. I think I will try to do it once-a-blog.)

I don’t do well at places like Port 41. I’m awkward in general, but it’s completely exasperated in any situation involving scantily-clad women. Say what you will about strip-clubs, but at least the stripper – customer dichotomy has clearly set parameters: she exposes her vagina, I look at it. Easy-peasy. But any environment where the women are nearly naked and it’s inappropriate to gawk sets my conscience a-haywire. For one: I have absolutely no idea what to do with my eyeballs. I’m not making eye-contact with these ladies; I don’t want them peering into my soul and seeing the demons that lurk there. That’s for my loved ones to do.  And secondly I haven’t any idea how to talk these women because I’m petrified they are going to think I’m another creep trying to hit on them, so I end up acting like a total jerk and/or gay, which interestingly enough comes quite naturally.

At places like Port 41, it’s best to utilize what I call Subway Vision.  Subway Vision is when you are not strictly blind, but you are unable to see anything that isn’t totally pleasant. Weird shit happens on the New York City subway, and when it does, the consensus best response is to wholly ignore its existence when you might otherwise feel inclined to notice. An MTA train is just about the only place in the world where you can spot a homeless man peeing on a seeing-eye dog and have your only reaction be, oh I see Harrison Ford has a new movie out, maybe I’ll check it out, look at the poster, look at the poster, look at the poster…

Using Subway Vision is standard protocol at joints like Port 41 (or a beach, or a gym, or Hooters.)  Just pretend like you don’t see the tampon string dangling precariously close to the tribal tattoos and order your beer. Problem solved.

Note: Subway Vision is virtually required if you are at one of these joints with a girlfriend. In that scenario, it’s best to pretend you haven’t even realized there is a bar. If free IPODs start falling out of the waitress’ ass, you are not allowed to notice. 

I struggled to find ways to describe in detail Port 41, and thought it would be fun to post some reviews I found online. Alas, another blogger had beaten me to it. Here is a link to a blog post about Port 41, replete with photos and Yelp reviews, check it out:

The comedy show and the Brooklyn Comedy Underground party seemed almost tangential. I was the first to arrive so I got first dibs on my spot on the lineup and went with lucky number four.  The set went well. Dillon showed up unexpectedly and in a suit, which has to be something of a precedent at this venue. Dillon, Amy and I ditched the show early and walked around, soaking in the glitz and the squalor, the pomposity and the grandeur of Midtown, present time.

I’m feeling good about the current lineup of jokes I now have in my possession. I think it may be my best. Not bad after one year. Yes, one year ago tomorrow I moved to New York. In many ways this was the hardest year of my life. But in so many more ways it was also the best. And maybe that’s the way life should be. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Excuses (And Hyperbole)

Ok, I’m back.

There have been rumblings recently that the 38th Governor of California will soon retire from politics to return to Hollywood. If these rumors prove true, it will mean that the 38th Governor of California will not follow in the footsteps of a previous movie star-turned-California Governor and ascend to the Presidency of the United States, ostensibly because the US Constitution won’t allow him, but in reality because God isn’t real. If there is a God, there is no way he wouldn’t see to it that Arnold Schwarzenneger became president. It’s just too good, too juicy to pass up. Now I can’t say I agree with Gov Schwarzenneger’s policies. I don’t actually know what they are – I don’t follow the “news.” But what I do know is that if God were real, he would want to see his children live in a world where they could realistically and appropriately see “The President of the United States” and “Total Recall” in the same sentence on Wikipedia.

And if this is the week that Arnold returns to where he belongs, (protecting the future leaders of the resistance and dalliances with three-breasted Martian prostitutes) and away forever from where he has no right being, (conversations on immigration policy), then it will mark the second great comeback of fall 2010. I have decided to post again.

The title of this blog post should be starting to make sense now.

I’m not going to list the myriad of reasons why I haven’t posted in so long. For that, re-read any number of my whiny blog posts about how I am too busy or how I can’t organize my time or how I watch to much pornography and on an on. Those are all among the reasons. This post however is to reassure anybody who may care that I have not totally abandoned this site, and more importantly, I have not abandoned my purpose for moving to New York. Fast approaching the eve of my one-year New York anniversary, I realize that I must work harder, and I attend to. Excuses are over, I’m here. That was the hard part, if I recall.

I’ve made a few promises to myself and there is one in particular that I would like to share: I will publish two posts to this website a week, every week, from now on, so help me Arnold. If I don’t, I will delete the site. If We Could Go On and On isn’t worth my token attention and effort every week, the it is not worth existing and not worth causing Harry serious anxiety problems.

Today is Monday. The next blog post (and spoiler alert: it will be a good one) will arrive by the end of the week. This will stand as the only explanation for the apparent end of posting. We will all just pretend it never happened.

Please stop by and check it out. I’ll be back.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Instigatorzine: Issue 7

Monday’s blog took me five and a half hours. Seriously. It took me three-hundred and thirty minutes to determine my ten favorite funny films and then designate them a specific rank. My entire Monday afternoon/evening evaporated into a haze of cold cereal, cranberry juice and my venerable 2000-edition of Microsoft Word.  It didn’t help that I wrote a mini-essay of adulation for each movie, (who doesn’t write for hours about Spaceballs?) and I felt a need to add pictures in case you didn’t remember what Bill Murray looked like. Whoever wrote that brevity is the soul of wit (I believe it was Eminem) would probably think I am a retard.

This blog however? 30 minutes, maybe.  That’s because all the hard work was done months ago.  I wrote The Butterfly Net, a short-story appearing in the current issue of the New Jersey-based literary magazine, Instigatorzine, in early July, as part of another several-hour long, cereal-fueled writing binge. The purpose of this blog post is simply to alert people to the magazine’s existence in the hopes that someone will be intrigued enough to buy it and of course, to massage my tender ego.

(Note: The purpose of every blog post is to massage my tender ego.)

You can purchase the September issue, issue number seven, by clicking on the link below. It’s available for order as a hard copy via the US mail or download as a PDF. Now let’s all order the hard copy to show our respect for the dying printed word while at the same time giving a nice, resounding “Fuck You!” to trees everywhere. name is down there. I swear!

A few notes about the story.

  1. No, I can’t just print the story here for all of you to read, free of charge. First off, I signed a contract – which I did not read – but I’m pretty sure explicitly stated I cannot do that. And secondly, Instigatorzine is an independent literary magazine. You’ll be supporting grass-root art and getting essential hipster subway gear at the same time. It’s a good thing, believe me.

  1. In case there is someone out there who does purchase it, who didn’t at one time happen to have me residing in their uterus or their testicles, I want to tell you: I am no longer particularly fond of this story. I can hardly read it truth be told. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of The Butterfly Net. The day I found out it was going to be published was one of the proudest of my life. And Instigatorzine is a tremendous publication.  It’s just that re-reading the story now makes me grimace.   I can’t stand the constant overuse of simile, I can’t stand the opening sentences, I can’t stand the melodrama.  I feel like I can do a lot, which I guess is a good sign. I’m reminded of my friend Steve Macdonald, the musician. Every time I seen him perform he comes off the stage practically disgusted – irate -  over some mic being too loud or too low, over some timing being off or whatever. And I always think he sounds great; I’ve literally never noticed any problem that Steve seems to think is monumental.  But Steve notices them because he a legitimate artist; consummate. If he grew content, he would grow complacent and then he would fade away. So I guess I should be like Steve, obsessive. It’s the only way I’ll get better.   And at any rate, only three people have read the story: the magazine, which accepted it, and Amy and Scoots, who both liked it. So maybe I’m just wrong.

  1. Before you even ask, because I know someone will, this is not a true story. I’d like to go into more detail and I will. Maybe tomorrow, if I’m good. 

  1. Thank you. I like that there are imaginary people on their computers somewhere reading this and maybe even some that don’t think I’m a massive tool. For all those, thank you very much. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

My Top Ten Comedies.

Here's a list for you. I think you will enjoy it, even though it has nothing to do with New York City or stand-up comedy. But at least I went with the top ten comedies, and not something totally unrelated, like top 10 moments in Jurassic Park or whatever. (Which will undoubtably come next time I am at a loss for blog ideas.)


And please note: these are my personal favorite. I have not seen every comedy ever made and I do not consider myself in any way a movie expert. So don't be offended at a particular omission (note to the GF: I haven't seen all of Caddyshack, big fight coming) or at my lack of taste. These are just ten comedies I happen to enjoy very much. 

10. The Naked Gun Trilogy.

Ok, I realize this might be cheating, since these are technically three different movies. But just about every publication listed the Lord of the Rings trilogy as one singular movie when they bestowed upon it best-movie-of-the-decade status. And since LOTR is cinematic gruel when compared to Leslie Nielson’s magnum opus, I feel warranted grouping The Naked Gun movies together.

How to even pick a best of the three anyway?  All three of them feature many instances of slapstick, saturation humor at its zenith. Do you fancy Leslie Nielson’s Lt. Frank Drebin impersonating a famed opera singer at a Dodger’s game and butchering an impromptu Star Spangled Banner: “and the ramparts we watched uh…dada da da daaaa, and the rockets red glare... buncha bombs in the air.”?   Or do you prefer a just-about-to-murder-his-wife OJ Simpson trying to spike a baby in a madcap parody of The Untouchables (while Lt. Drebin reads a newspaper that proclaims: Dyslexia for Cure Found?) Or maybe you’re like me and you love an exchange like this one from The Naked Gun 2 1/2, which is quintessential Leslie Nielson:

Drebin: Well, What did he look like?
Jane: He was Caucasian, mustache, about 6 foot 3.
Drebin: That’s an awfully big mustache.                        


9. Team America: World Police.

I wanted to seem cool and not include this movie, which really did not age well, but every time I see that one puppet poop on the other puppet in the greatest puppet-sex scene ever, or hear the lyrics to the wonderfully irreverent and factual Pearl Harbor Sucked and I Miss You, I realize that I would be lying to not include Team America. Mookish though it may be, it’s still hilarious.

8. Kingpin.

I love this movie. I can’t help it. Of the Farrelly Brothers’ first three (and by far, best) movies, Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin, and There’s Something About Mary, Kingpin is the one that remains the funniest in repeat viewing.  Like Dumb and Dumber and There's Something About Mary,  Kingpin featured the Farrely’ Brother’s typical gross-out humor while it was still original; unlike Dumb and Dumber and There's Something About Mary,  Kingpin featured Bill Murray improvising virtually every line of his dialog.

Woody Harrelson plays beyond washed-up bowler Roy Munson to hilarious extreme, (I love the opening scene of Munson 17-years later, when he beats the morning alarm clock senseless with his hook-hand, then immediately chugs a bottle of Jack Daniels) and Randy Quaid doesn’t ruin the movie.  But it’s Bill Murray as Harrelson’s rival bowler, Ernie McCracken, who predictably steals the movie.  Every scene is ass-hole Murray at his best, whether he's turning Roy’s surname into cliché for failure (“These kids…they nearly got Munsoned.”) or refuting reporters’ inquiry into his pending paternity suit (“Please… I pulled outta her way early.)

7. Spaceballs.

I see your Schwartz is as big as mine. 

Here’s the thing: I knew I would seem much more academic and serious and somehow cool if I selected one of Mel Brooks’s more famous and celebrated films like Young Frankenstein or Blazing Saddles, but I couldn’t lie to you dear blog readers. Brooks’ spirited Star Wars parody, Spaceballs is still my favorite. Why?  I dunno.  Probably the fact that Rick Moranis plays a Dearth Vader wannabe named Pith Helmet. Maybe it was Brooks getting beamed to the room next door only to find his head is on backwards. (“How come no one told me my ass was so big?”)  Maybe it was the room full of Mr. Ass Holes, or the Schwartz battle (“I see your Schwartz is as big as mine. Now let’s see how well you handle it.” ) Or maybe it was Pith Helmet playing with his dolls again.

I dunno.  

I just love it the most. OK? Back the fuck up.

6. Groundhog Day.

Groundhog Day comes dangerously close to being one of those movies that may not actually be a comedy,  a dreaded dramedy that may rely too heavily on drama to still classify it as a comedy. But the first half of this movie is so funny it makes up for the second half, which is mostly sweet, light drama.   

I almost never watch Groundhog Day without feeling intense pangs of jealousy. Jealous of Harold Ramis, because I know I will never write anything so effortlessly clever and virile for comedy, and jealous of Bill Murray, because I will never be that good.  I like that the plot is absurd and contrived, and the script mines that for comedic inspiration. My favorite sequences are towards the beginning, when Murray’s weatherman is learning how to use his “curse” to his advantage to seduce a random woman at a diner, and then his boss. Watching these scenes for the first time, and slowly realizing what Murray is up to, is watching the perfect union between script and performer.

5 Airplane.

This and the next movie make up what I call the “Classics” portion of my list. You can’t have a best movies list without The Godfather and you can’t have a best comedies list without Airplane. 

Offended that I just compared Airplane to The Godfather? Consider this:

A. The movie all-but-invented two types of movie comedy: dead pan comedy and saturation humor. Dead pan is the pretense of seriousness, in comedy it means basically acting straight while saying ludicrous things. Peter Graves, Leslie Nielson, and Robert Graves put on an absolute clinic in dead pan humor in Airplane. How do they say it these days...? They totally pwned that shit. And saturation humor is basically stuffing so many jokes into a movie, in the foreground and background, that it doesn’t matter if only 30% of jokes work, because that equals roughly 1200 funny jokes.  Remember when the passengers panicked as the situation became dire and a topless woman walked in the aisle and jiggled her breasts for no reason?  That’s saturation-humor at its best, folks.

B. Video: I Speak Jive. 

Automatic co-pilot and stewardess, post-coital. 

4. Animal House.

The movie that would have been number one if 14-year old Gregory made this list, Animal House has nonetheless endured long enough to remain among my favorite funny films.   It’s no surprise that I connected to it more as a 14 year old then I do now because A. I had not yet been to college and fully expected it to be exactly like the Delta House and B. I always felt like I was breaking the rules watching Animal House, and that made it cooler.

My father loved Animal House and used to sneak my brother and I downstairs to watch, and my mother never approved. (Something about that scene where a Freshmen consults with the devil on whether or not to continue having sex with a passed-out 13 year-old girl with one breast.)  

The film is justifiably considered a classic. There are a myriad of reasons why it has been so loved for so long. For me, I love the combination of gross/out humor and underdog ramshackle ambivalence.  I love how the preppy fraternity is the bad guys, and all their leaders limp. I love how John Belushi chugs whisky and throws the bottle against the wall and then becomes senator. I could go on and on really.

It's a mathematic certainty that Kevin Bacon will end up in every movie. 

3. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is essentially The Odd Couple Hits the Road, but the film rises above its familiar plot contrivances because of the talent of its leads, Steve Martin and John Candy. Steve Martin, playing against type (if you assume that his type by the mid-eighties was the bumbling buffoon of The Jerk or SNL’s “King Tut”) as a conservative, uptight business square, is pitch-perfect high-strung. Martin’s Neal Page is pure 80’s quiet desperation until John Candy’s exhaustingly affable (and annoying) Del Griffith sends him on a number of hilarious and poetically profane outbursts, the highlight of them being this:

But the real treat of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is the unexpected dramatic talent of John Candy.  There were always sad undertones to the lovable-oaf character John Candy played to almost iconic status during his career. (I think it was by virtue of his weight. We tend to equate obesity to sadness, to our assumption that an overweight man is burdened to a life alone because no girl ever loves the fat guy. Candy’s standard good-natured performances underscored this, since they always seemed to be masking a deep loneliness.)   This subtext was hinted at in films like Uncle Buck or Only the Lonely, but in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Candy brings his loneliness to the forefront. It’s so effective that it reveals an entirely different level to a movie that features Steve Martin being lifted from the curb by his genitals.   In one scene in a Wichita motel, Martin finally lashes out and berates Candy. As the camera hangs on Candy’s face, such a legitimate pathos is generated that it pervades the entirety of the movie. This would make Planes, Trains and Automobiles seem gloomy, but it really just makes everything funnier because you unwittingly become so invested in the characters. A wonderful movie.

See what I mean?! Every movie!

2.  Hot Fuzz.

The follow-up to Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s hilarious and surprisingly violent Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz cemented the duo as the preeminent purveyors of parody. If Britain’s idea of parody is Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz and America’s idea is Scary Movie, Disaster Movie, Epic Movie and the rest of that putrid shit, then perhaps Britain should reclaim rule over its former subordinate.

I prefer Hot Fuzz out of the two, and if I were making my top ten favorite movies in any genre, it’s quite likely Hot Fuzz would make that list as well. I love how Pegg and Frost lampoon: with reverence.  They clearly love the material they are parodying, and it is evident in Hot Fuzz. The film’s setup is genius. The protagonist, played - as in Shaun of the Dead -by Simon Pegg, spends the first half of the movie deriding and discrediting any number of action-movie clichés, then realizes that employing those clichés is the only way to achieve justice in his cozy little English-hamlet, Sanford. The catalyst for this – when Pegg is about to flee town before seeing Point Break and Bad Boys 2 at a gas station – is parody genius.

1. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

I think this is the number one. There wasn’t going to be a resounding winner here; this wasn’t an easy list like say… a list of my top ten pizza toppings or my top two parents – this one took thought.  The difference in the amount of “funny” between number 10 and number 1 is indistinguishable, and if I were to tally the number of laughs each of the previous films elicited, there’s a good chance they would rank ahead of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. But DRS has hands-down the funniest sequence of any movie on the list, and therefore probably the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. If you’ve seen the movie, you know which scene I’m talking about, and if you haven’t seen it, you’ll know as soon as you do.

In Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Michael Caine plays the debonair British con-artist to Steve Martin’s foul-mouthed, sleazy American counterpart in a hilarious game of one-upmanship. The pairing is genius, the script is excessively clever and the plots twists are genuinely surprising. The movie is proof that a comedy is best served with an intelligent script.

But it is Steve Martin’s six minutes as the imbecile, man-child Rupricht that represent the film’s high point.  Hyperbole be damned, this is probably the funniest six minutes I’ve ever seen in a movie. I can’t watch it with out tear-streaming laughter.  What makes this sequence so great is that while it is laden with sight gags and toilet humor, it really only works in the context of the movie – it’s infinitely funnier in the framework of the plot then if I just showed you the clip on Youtube.   And please don’t get the impression that Michael Caine has no hand in this comedy paradise, to the contrary. It’s the way Caine plays off Martin’s Rupricht that elevates it to the sublime. Witness the way Caine scolds Rupricht, they way he eggs Rupricht along in order to scare away his wealthy marks. In a testament to the cleverness of the script, it’s the reason why Michael Caine is employing Steve Martin in this role that makes it funnier. 

The rest of the movie is no slouch.  The sparring between the two leads is a constant delight.  It may not be the funniest funny movie I have ever seen. But every time I watch Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, I get the distinct impression it’s the best. 

Comedy Genius. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Sucked Orange

Legendary Anti-Semite and part-time auto-worker Henry Ford once had this to say about my transplanted home, New York:

“There’s just too many Jews – I mean they already control our newspapers and now I can’t even get a decent bagel –“

… I’m sorry that’s the wrong quote. Ahh, here it is:

New York is a different country. Maybe it ought to have a separate government. Everybody thinks differently, acts differently. They just don’t know what the hell the rest of the United States is.”

Kinda makes you think: gee, if what the “ rest of the United States is” is people like Henry Ford, then good-fucking-riddance but still - the demagogue had a point.

I like the idea of New York being its own country. New York’s metropolitan area, which includes the city itself plus neighboring cities like Newark and StamfordNew York’s JV Squad if you will – is home to over 22 million people, which as its own independent nation would make New York the 54th most populated country on Earth, beating out about 175 other, sovereign nations. New York’s gross metropolitan product is 1.13 trillion dollars, 1.02 trillion of that covering the Yankees’ infield. In regards to being its own country, New York could totally pull it off, and maybe it just should.  Hell, why stop there? New York is so diverse, home to so many large and prosperous ethnic subgroups representing scores of nations; it really could be its own planet.  It would certainly give a new meaning to the phrase “illegal aliens.” 

In Brave New World, Aldous Huxley envisions a future dystopia where Henry Ford is our Deity. Aldous Huxley did massive amounts of LSD.

I’ve discovered that a vast majority of quotes on the internet regarding New York City are negative. It appears there is nothing easier then getting someone famous to say something shitty about New York:

New York, like London, seems to be a cloacina [toilet] of all the depravities of human nature.”
            - Thomas Jefferson

New York is a sucked orange.”
            - Ralph Waldo Emerson

This could be good or bad. Who knows?

“[New York City] sucks… It just fucking sucks.”
            -Woody Allen (As quoted in The Onion.)

Read this now. Actually, strike that. Read it after you finish my blog.

That’s just a sampling of what awaits you if you Google New York Quotes.  It’s interesting (if not a little bit unsurprising) the level of vitriol that New York City can inspire in people.
Anyone watching Saturday Night Live in the late nineties remembers the name of disgraced big-league pitcher John Rocker.  He took the time-tested route toward immortality that a surprising amount of perpetually mediocre athletes traverse: he made a legendary ass of himself. When asked by Sports Illustrated about the prospect of playing for the Yankees or Mets, the affable and cuddly Rocker infamously responded:

"I would retire first. It's the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the [Number] 7 train to the ballpark, looking like you're [riding through] Beirut next to some kid with purple hair next to some queer with AIDS right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It's depressing."

Ok, here’s the thing: Until the last two words, John Rocker was spot on. (And this is really just a modern, albeit far less eloquent, update on Jefferson’s quote.)

Let me explain before you go accuse me of being a sexist, racist, paranoid son-of-a-bitch. There’s an adage in the marketing world I learned in college, and it’s appropriate here: It’s the medium not the message. Or something like that; I was not frequently sober. But anyway that’s the gist of it and the point is that the person or device that’s disseminating the information is more important the information itself.  What John Rocker is saying is true, but more important is what’s also true, that John Rocker is a sexist, racist, paranoid son-of-a-bitch. (Read his Wikipedia entry. The rest of his life proves this.)  So when says it, being an ass hole, it becomes an ass hole thing to say. It's the medium. 

My initial reaction to re-reading Rocker’s quote was  - I’ve been on that train before, why didn’t he mention the guy with no legs?! – and I’m sure I’m not the only one to think like that. But the difference between all of us and John Rocker is that these are things we love about New York City, indeed these are things that some of us are ourselves. We’re dudes with purple hair, we’re queers with AIDS, we’re ex-cons, we’re teenage moms.  And we all ride the train. New York just happens to have the biggest concentration of these people probably in the world, and for most people (most people I hang around with anyway) that’s pretty cool.

I wish I wasn’t 11 years late writing about John Rocker.

Monday, August 30, 2010

In Hell, it’s all Bringers.

Sometimes I forget why I don’t do bringers. Because I have a soul.

One day that soul may face Judgement, and I bear not the strength to face it with nothing to show for my soul but a history of bloodsucking bringers. 

Here is how my last bringer show ended: five good people, whose opinions of me I actually care about, paid about $35 each to watch me do the same material and tolerate being the butt of every comic’s intolerable crowd-work because they happened to be – with the exception of one obviously confused, middle-aged Asian man – the only people in the entire club. In other words, the club made $175 off me and me alone, and I got to watch people I like be ridiculed and forced to buy $10 beers. 

My Soul. My Soul needs cleansing.

These pictures are great because it's impossible to tell that there are less people in the audience than a Mel Gibson Fan Club.

(Note: I know this show was weeks ago: I don’t churn these things out at a rate that pleases me. I would love to find a system that works, like posting a new blog every Tuesday – Thursday, or every day divisible by four, but any such method eludes me. The best I can hope for is Harry Q. yelling at me on my Facebook wall, and then subsequently liking his yelling at me to remind myself that I should get off Lobstertube and dust off the ole We Could Go On and On.)

The show was at Gotham Comedy Club on a Friday Night. Wow, a Friday-night spot at Gotham, not bad, sport-o.  Don’t get too excited; the show was a bringer that started at 6:30, which is the comedy equivalent of me telling you I fulfilled my dream of playing at Gillette Stadium and you later discovering all I did was run around the field with the other blind kids at 11am with the Patriots’ PR team and the backup place-kicker.  So let’s all keep this in perspective.  

I got to the show early and the place was desolate. It was my first time in the Gotham, and I must say, it was gorgeous. It was all sleek and silver and black. Everything was a smooth and becoming plastic, like the back side of smart-phone. If BrookStone made comedy clubs instead of just alarm clocks that play ocean sounds, it would look like the Gotham Comedy Club.  When I first got there I was giddy; there was definitely an I’ve-finally-made-it vibe in the room as realized I would soon be performing on this stage.

Any feelings of comedic actualization were fleeting as the show started and it became evident that the people I brought to the show to be able to perform were the only people in the audience.  (I’m choosing to ignore the aforementioned bewildered Asian man, because let’s face it: if I don’t at least get some empathy for this show then it will have been an abject failure.)   There were at least 10 other comics, none of whom brought anyone because apparently they didn’t have to. This probably gives them the impression that they are “above” me as comedians. Maybe so. But they weren’t better comedians. Not by a long shot. Still, I was the only one  who had to ask his friends to blow almost forty dollars and a Friday afternoon to have the privilege to perform.  Makes you feel like a schmuck, you know?

 These pictures make it seem like the post is bigger! 

Since it was just my friends and they were seated smack-dab in the front row, they were all treated to some of the worst, hackiest crowd work forty dollars can buy!

Who’s single here? Are you guys a couple? Are you freaky in the sack? Who’s smoking weed tonight? Name your top five Wrestlemanias – quick!

(What I wouldn’t have done for that last one to be true?)

A coworker of mine, Alex, who is just about the nicest person you could ever meet (she has a WALL-E bookbag for goddsakes) got the worst of the reverse heckling. I won’t even write some of the things that were said to her because I fear for my job if I printed them on the internet. 

The joy on my face is not a joke. 
(Photos courtesy of Amy H.)

I went on seventh. It’s hard to perform for a paying audience that consists of people you could have just invited over to your apartment and told jokes to for free. They were all such good sports, though. They laughed and smiled and were supportive and told me I needn’t feel apologetic or embarrassed when, of course, I felt both. 

Afterwards, the booker/headliner of the show, who was a genuinely nice guy and a talented comedian, offered me a bringer-free guest-spot on a future show.  I accepted and then came to the sudden realization that perhaps that was how all the other comics on the bill got to perform sans duped guests; they had already brought people to their own embarrassing failure and were compensated with a spot on my sinking-ship nightmare of a show. Makes sense. 

Just to make myself feel a little better, I’ll use this time to thank the people who went to the show by name, didn’t complain one bit, took every thing good-naturedly, and decided to still talk to me afterwards. Amy, Aimee, Alex, Sarah and Dillon. Thank you. You are all going to Heaven, where they don’t have drink minimums and comedians who make inferences on your sexual habits based on your earrings. (Hell is loaded with both.)

Monday, August 16, 2010

one outta two.

One outta two ain’t bad. In fact, there are a myriad of pursuits in which one outta two would be positively splendid. If a first baseman, for example, keeps a one outta two pace at the plate for an entire season, he would almost certainly have registered the greatest season in the history of hitting first basemen. Just about the only blemish on my one outta two is that it is only outta two; it’s too soon to determine if this is an indication of success or merely happenstance. But for now I stay positive and simply maintain: one outta two ain’t bad.

Question: What the hell am I talking about?

Sorry. I’ll explain.

I spent a good deal of time over July writing short stories, most of which I don’t mind saying were god-awful garbage.  But I persevered, because I like writing short stories. Any creative pursuit that can be pursued sitting on a couch in one’s underwear while blasting Eminem is how shall I say, my cup of tea.

By the end of the month, submission deadlines for a few literary magazines were approaching, and I worked up the nerve to submit two different stories to two different magazines. One story was accepted and one was rejected, and what follows this (typically) elongated introduction is the rejected story. 

Some sour grapes:  The magazine that rejected me sucks anyway! It’s so lame, and the magazine that will publish me is waaaaay better. Like 1000 times better. And sexier.

ANYWAY, The story below is entitled In Left Field, and like all fiction, is based and born in truth.  It’s not god-awful garbage, but I think it’s vastly inferior to the story that was accepted, so I’m actually quite content with how it all worked out.  The literary magazine that rejected it stressed a brevity theme, and all submissions had to adhere to a 500-word limit. Part of (most of) the reason I chose to submit In Left Field was that with it’s original length of 1200 words, it was by far the shortest story I wrote. It was not easy eliminating 60% of a story that was only a couple pages long anyway, and indeed what remained of In Left Field was skeletal. In bore only a slight resemblance.

So, the magazine’s loss is We Could Go On and On’s gain (or loss, if you are understandably sick of these stories).  Here is my first rejection. May it be the first of many, as long as I never stop writing.

In Left Field.
By Gregory Quinn

Mr. Anderson sat on his back porch, our default left-field foul pole.  He loved watching me strike the old man out. He laughed and hollered and told my father he couldn’t hit the pool from the diving board. He called me the next Rocket.

My father pretended to be upset, promising to bring the heater when he took the rubber. But he’d toss me a gopher and I’d crank it to the trees while Mr. Anderson cheered.

Our field was a miniature diamond of raked-aside pine needles and bags of sand we bought at the hardware store.  Mr. Anderson helped us build the field. He paced off the distance from the batter’s box to the pitcher’s mound, walking one foot after the other in dogged precision. He maintained the field throughout the summer, raked the sand and painted the foul poles yellow.  He never played, always retreating to the porch of his brown ranch and always looking after his wife, whom I never met.  

Mr. Anderson’s wife stayed inside, sheltered. During our games, Mr. Anderson checked on his wife often, bringing himself and my father another drink as he returned. She’s been feeling a little ill lately, he explained, pointing to the sky, this damn weather.  At night, my father walked through the never-mended fence and sat with him on the back porch, smoking and drinking and trying to ignore.  

Late in July, Mr. Anderson’s wife was seen wandering around the neighborhood naked, muttering to herself and watering the gardens. Mr. Anderson found her and silently wrapped her in a blanket, walking her to his truck. My parents sat at the dinner table and remarked how sad or what a shame, never expressing the relief that their own breakdowns took place in the anonymity of their own home, fully clothed.   After dinner Mr. Anderson was back on his porch, warning me to watch out for the heater.

On the nights we didn’t play Mr. Anderson stayed outside, sipping from silver cans of beer and throwing rocks at the sticks in front of him. His wife called from inside and he’d go to her, emerging with a fresh drink but no one for which to explain. He’d shake his head and sit back down, barely moving.     

It wasn’t long and then Mr. Anderson’s seat in left field was always empty. The trips inside for his wife were longer and longer and when he came back out he said nothing.    My father went over there often then. He went inside and stayed for hours. He and Mr. Anderson came back out to the porch and from my bedroom window I watched them sit and smoke in silence.  My father came in so late those nights I never heard him come home.   

Mr. Anderson’s wife died the weekend I went back to school. I’m not sure I even noticed.

The End.

See. It’s not that great. I mean, I don’t hate it. I like the image of Mr. Anderson’s crazed wife watering the neighbors’ gardens naked. But I know I can do better.

Amy suggested that one day I should publish an anthology of all my rejected stories (she assumes, like I, there will be a lot of them) and entitle it: Suck It: The Rejected Stories of Gregory Quinn.

My girlfriend is a genius. 

Monday, August 9, 2010

Advice is like Ass Holes.

I was goofing around on the internet the other night, hours after I really should have been asleep, when I stumbled upon an interesting site. The site- I Write Like – is a “statistical analysis tool” that allows you to input into its generator a personal writing sample, which is then “analyzed” and compared to a famous author.  No wonder they haven’t cured cancer - this has clearly taken precedence.

After a few minutes messing around, it was clear this was all a marketing scheme for some writing workshop, but initially I was very intrigued. The link to the website was under “Do you write like Kurt Vonnegut or Stephen King?” and it was impossible to resist such a query. (Never mind what I Google-searched to yield such a link.)

Obviously I was curious to find out which famous authors my writing style resembles, so I entered the first few paragraphs of my short story, On Interstate 35, Stuck, (available for your reading pleasure in the archives section) hit the analyze button and immediately, I Write Like informed me I write like Stephen King. 


In the interest of consistency, I insert the last few paragraphs of  Interstate 35 and find that in this part of the 800-word story, I write like Dan Brown, author of The DaVinci Code, a book which Stephen King famously hated. Oh, irony.

After a few more samples, I enter full messing-around mode. I write simply “suck it” into the analyzation-chamber, and I Write Like tells me that “suck it” is not a sufficient sample. So I elaborate and enter “Suck it, Mr. Magoo. You are not welcome here” and wallah! I write like Ray Bradbury. Don’t remember that line in Fahrenheit 451, but no matter.

The legitimacy of this whole operation now in question, I create a little test for the I Write Like.  I input the first line of Stephen King’s story 1408:

Mike Enslin was still in the revolving door when he saw Olin , the manager of the Hotel Dolphin, sitting in one of the overstuffed lobby chairs.

What I found was that for all the years Stephen King was under the impression he wrote like Stephen King, he was mistaken. He wrote like Vladimir Nabokov.  Perhaps it was the hotel setting which made I Write Like think of illicit, nubile love.

The site also features a “Prove-It” tab which enables you to link your results to your Facebook page and demonstrate that irrefutable technology has proven you do indeed write like JD Salinger.  I spent the rest of the night trying hopelessly to get I Write Like to tell me I write like Kurt Vonnegut, even blatantly plagiarizing Cat’s Cradle, but was unsuccessful.  Then, inspiration struck me, and I input:

Suck it, Mr. Magoo. You are not welcome here. So it Goes.

I Write Like analyzed this and told me I write like Ernest Hemingway. My name is Yon Yonson. I come from Wisconsin

All of this got me thinking about the craft of writing in general, and how - while this website is flawed – we all do write like somebody. And this brings me to the main point of this blog (Ha! Those 500 words you just read were merely the introduction! Suck it.)

I think the best way to become a better writer is to become a better reader. Constant, obsessive reading is just about the best writing class you could ever hope to take.

Here’s what I’m thinking.

We unconsciously emulate everything we are receiving. Spend enough time with anything: a person, a book, a musician, a movie, a fast-food restaurant (anything!) and it’s practically inevitable that you’ll start to copy certain things about their personality -their habits and quirks and humor and style - without even thinking about it.  I had a teammate back in my NCCC days, Dylan, whose quirky style of humor I found infectious, and after only a few weeks living with him, I found myself constantly employing his brand of confused-faces and wise-ass-bewilderment humor without even trying, it just happened, and it felt totally natural.

The same thing happens with writing. The writer’s style is going to mirror whoever they’ve been reading lately or whoever they read the most. If a dude has read nothing but Stephen King and then one day sits down to write a short story, it would almost assuredly resemble, if not outright replicate, the prose of King. There’s a good chance the dude’s story would be a moody, folksy character ensemble about a nefarious store, politician, car, or graveyard in rural Maine. It would just happen. But if this dude, let’s call him Fisher; if Fisher becomes a better reader and adds more authors to his daily reading regimen, when he sits down to write his next story it’s going to have the influences of the new authors, plus the still-strong influence of King, plus the singular perspective of Fisher himself (which is exclusively Fisher’s, unique to him in the world, which is what makes writing great) and what will emerge will be the amalgam, and now Fisher is a much better writer. It’s like magic. Fisher has added Kurt Vonnegut, Phillip Roth and David Foster Wallace to his reading list, and his new story is about a time-shifting alien growing up in post-war Jewish Newark and battling a prescription drug addiction. And his car is haunted. And that story could potentially be awesome.

The more you read, the more unique your reading list will be, thus the more interesting the mixture of influences in your writing style becomes. I really think it’s as simple as that. I could be wrong (I probably am wrong) but I know for sure that the more I read, the better these posts become, and no way that’s a coincidence.

Walk around New York and you’ll see those ubiquitous yellow newspaper stands with catalogs for writing classes, the front of the stand proclaiming: Learn How to Write! Inside you’ll find a few dozen suggestions on what to do with a few hundred dollars and 6 hours a week. They obviously don’t want you to know that a library card is free. 

I input this entire post into I Write Like.  I found like I write like Cory Doctorow, a Canadian Blogger and Science Fiction writer. Creepy.        

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Deal With It.

When I was 14, I saw a billboard for Hooters Air.

For the unfortunate few not in the know, Hooters Air was the official airline of Hooters Restaurant, the only “family restaurant” that makes a Montreal strip joint seem tasteful.

Before you ask, please believe me. I am not making this up. 

It was a hideous idea. Most people realize that flying is serious business and wouldn’t trust their lives to a company that somehow screwed up the combination of bar food and big breats. When I’m 35,000 feet in the air, I’m usually in a far too serious mood to participate in the type of decorum the Hooters’ atmosphere perpetuates. People agreed with me, and not long after I saw the billboard, Hooters Air folded.  This would have been around the year 2000

I was 15 years old and on Interstate 95, somewhere in North Carolina. Above me, the endless string of South of the Border billboards relented for just a moment, and in their wake was a preposterously garish orange sign, with an illustration of a 747 and that semi-iconic Hooters owl, himself proclaiming: “Hooters Air, Where getting there is half  all the fun. 

My 15-year-old self thought it was absolute genius.

It’s a play on that old cliché and it was marketing wizardry. If anyone you know ever flew on Hooters Air, that was the reason. I’m not saying they saw the Billboard and then dialed their travel agents, but that philosophy was certainly the motivation behind choosing the airline. The conversation never would have gone:

“Yeah, I gotta take Hooters Air flight 109 to Atlanta for a meeting.”

Rather it would have sounded like:

“Yeah, I gotta go to Atlanta for a meeting, but I’m taking Hooters Air!”

The Hooters Air people were marketing the flight on the plane as the vacation, not the means to get to the vacation. They were hoping they could get you to forget how ludicrous the thought of Hooters Air is by making it seem like an event, or at the very least an interesting conversation starter. Other airlines boast about the destinations they take you, not so much the flight itself. If they do mention the flight, it’s to tell you about what little creations they’ve come up with to make the whole unfortunate experience more bearable. More leg-room, leather cushions, forcing fat people to buy two seats, and they go on and on.
Aren’t you being a little ridiculous? Yes. I am. Whichever ad-man came up the slogan was probably just trying to stress the point that this time when you duel over the stewardess, you needn’t feel like a sex offender.  But, still. The idea that getting there could be all the fun was a notion that I could never quite relinquish. It festered and bubbled inside of me, until the idea that I would live my life without endlessly traveling, without wandering for the sake of wandering, became absolutely unbearable. It seemed that Hooters had succeeded in blue-balling me, though certainly not in the manner they anticipated.

It was this anxiety that led me to wander out on my own after college, to join Americorps (and then join it again), to forgo laundry and groceries to have money for weekend trips, and ultimately to relocate to New York.  

And now I’m here, in New York, the great New York, and most of the time all I want to do is leave.  New York City is so massive that weeks and months can melt away before I realize that I haven’t left the five boroughs even once. (I should just say four. Who goes to Staten Island?)  Anyone who grew up in the suburbs will agree; the idea that you could go more then a weekend without leaving one town is crazy. Plymouth didn’t even have a Wendy’s until I was 22! 

The downside to one place providing everything you could possible need is that you never need to go to another place. New York is like one giant Super Wal-Mart. Big Apple aficionados will counter by saying that New York is so disparate from block to block that it’s like traveling thru limitless locales, arguing there’s more diversity in a dozen Manhattan blocks then all of the Dakotas.  And they would be right. I could travel thru the entire American south and never come across a good Venezuelan Cachapa, or I could take a five minute walk during my lunch break and score a great one.

But for me, there is something about staying in one geographical location for a length of time that drives me bonkers, just the idea that I’m not stretching out, that I’m becoming grounded.

Two good friends of mine are leaving the city next month. My roommate left last month. None of them seemed to acclimate to New York. For all the things they liked about the city, none of them ever felt it held a candle to what back home could offer them. So after a trial period they are moving home, and they are positively ecstatic. I get this horrible feeling that I will end up bitter too, that I will – such as those patrons of Hooters Air - want to just up and leave simply because I haven’t up and left in a while.

But that would mean giving up, and I can’t do that. Not this year at least. Maybe not in five years. Maybe I was ignorant to think that chasing my dream would be a constantly amazing and life-affirming ride, propelled along simply by the fact that “I’m going for it,” and not a reality check: a confidence-crushing, bank-account-depleting,  self-degrading struggle.   Maybe I was ignorant to think it would be so much fun.

(It is fun a lot, too. Let me take a moment here to apologize for how whiny and self-loathing this post got all of the sudden. Not sure what happened. Maybe I should have some cookies.)

I have to remember there is a purpose, a goal I’m working towards, and when I reach that goal this will all be so incredibly worth it.  And if I never reach it, it will still be worth it, because it will just give me another place to escape from, another destination to start the car from and hit the road, or get on the jet plane.  On to the next one, on to the next one.  

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

And Mr. Gaffigan Came, Too

Like pink flamingoes belong on the front lawn, I belong in the basement. A basement, it seems, is the only place in which I am fit to perform.

It’s nice actually, such an accurate physical manifestation of my stature in the comedy world. It couldn’t be any less subtle if I performed all my shows on the bottom rung of a ladder.

There were the countless mics at basement comedy clubs like The Comedy Corner or East Ville Comedy, the Wednesday motel mics in the basement of the Village Lantern, the mic at the Tangine actually called My Grandmother’s Basement, all of which gave me the impression that the road to top is paved with leaky faucets and menacing furnaces.

At least Ochi’s Lounge, the Chelsea club underneath Comix - pretty much the big papa of New York Comedy Clubs – is lovely, easily nicer and hipper and hotter-bartendered then any number of above-ground comedy clubs.  I’ve performed here twice, both times as part of the I’ve Got Munchies variety show, which has got to be among the most interesting shows in New York.

Look! Pictures!

Why so interesting?  Well - first you have the Munchie’s-produced comedy videos which elicit reactions ranging from silent bewilderment to roaring laughter. Then there are the performers, everything from desperate stand-ups (that would be me) to affable storytellers; from naturally-funny magicians to twin-brother comedy duos in matching suits.  There was one man from my first show whose entire act was shoving whole meals into his mouth and then speaking as clearly as he could. The crowd loved him.

The producers of the show are also not what you expect from someone booking an important room on a Saturday night. They are the wonderfully irrepressible Jenn Dodd and Sharon Jamilkowski, two ladies who seem incapable of displaying emotions other than jubilation. When Jenn thanked me for doing her show, a show where she gave me a drink ticket and which I didn’t have to pay to do, I was flabbergasted. I’ve reached a point where I feel indebted to anyone who doesn’t out-and-out screw me over.

There’s also the name,  I’ve Got Munchies. This is clearly intended to conjure up images of marijuana-induced snack-food binges (of which, mother, I know nothing about) but in truth refers to the group’s ultimate goal to combine comedy routines with easy to follow dinner recipes.  Go figure.

Since I’ve moved to New York City last year, one of the better lessons I’ve learned is that a spectacular failure, something crazy and embarrassing and altogether unforgettable, is preferable to a moderate, garden-variety success. Everyone remembers that diminutive Asian man who became an instant celebrity “butchering” Ricky Martin and no one in the world has any idea who the hell Taylor Hicks is. (Indeed, I had to Google American Idol winners for this reference.)

In this vein, the I’ve Got Munchies’ variety show seems leagues ahead of other Big Apple shows even when acts or videos (or some of my jokes) fail.  Even when jokes bomb, I found myself thinking: finally, something different.

There's me... 

Adding to the overall oddball experience, last Saturday night I unexpectedly opened for Jim Gaffigan, one of the most successful and recognizable stand-ups in the country.  Undoubtedly the high point of my comedy career and it all took place in a basement.

I’ve heard of superstar comics doing drop-ins before. Grizzled, open mic veterans are awash with accounts of the times Myc Kaplan or Bill Burr popped in to do some time right after their own set. These comedians always come off desperate, like when a middle-aged guy can’t get over the time his cover band opened for the remains of Lynyrd Skynyrd. But when it happened to me I suddenly understood. To so many comics who never flirt with greatness, to so many comics, like myself, who truly believe that they have inside them the capacity for greatness but will most certainly never attain it, simply sharing the stage with someone who has made it can be a life-defining event. If in 20 years I look back to the night I worked the same crowd with Jim Gaffigan as my crowning comic achievement, I will be supremely disappointed. But it’s better to have that then nothing.

He did not see my set, unfortunately. I was pretty good.

He came after I went on stage and he left after his own set. I fantasized about him seeing me in action, about hearing the laughter, about noticing the two applause breaks I received, and then rushing to phone his agent. Art, you gotta get down here, this guy is killing! And just like that I am whisked away into a world of stand-up royalty where Last Comic Standing has to beg me to audition.  But that was not to be, of course. I settled on sharing 22-dollar shots of whisky with Scoots.

...And there's Jim. Proof! (This will be as big as I ever get.)

I don’t begrudge Jim Gaffigan for showing and then blowing, for the ease in which he arrives at any show he pleases and gets on stage. I am jealous but not bitter. That’s just what becomes of the big boys and he certainly worked hard to be there. Sure, it’s funny that to him this is a bush-league show good for testing unproven material and for me it is marquee, a time to roll out my red-carpet goods, but it’s not unexpected. Comix, remember, is upstairs. 

And besides, it’s a win-win for everyone.  Jimmy G. gets to try new stuff to a receptive, human audience, I’ve Got Munchies gets to forever advertise that they’ve booked the likes of Jim Gaffigan, and I get to forever regal my friends with the tale of the time I opened for a legend. 

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll meet him on the first-floor one day.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Here You Have It.

The Stones Tavern is in Greenpoint, a neighborhood north of Williamsburg, Brooklyn just before Queens. Greenpoint is virtually indistinguishable from its neighbor to the south; it’s just as inaccessible and just as rampant with that flippant it’s-cost-so-much-to-look-so-poor chic.  But the mic at the Stones Tavern is free and the pretty blonde bartender talks nonstop and doesn’t seem to mind that I only order water and don’t tip, so I go here frequently. 

There’s also this show at Abigail’s Lounge on Classon Ave in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Classon is the western-most avenue of the Crown Heights neighborhood, and for long stretches Classon Avenue more closely resembles the more affluent Prospect Heights section it straddles. Abigail’s Lounge is a perfect example, as this trendy, darkly-lit wine bar with it’s mostly white clientele bears little resemblance to the bodegas and Crown Fried Chickens and  Trinidadian Doubles Shops only a few blocks east on Nostrand. I imagine that the residents of real Crown Height’s streets like Nostrand and Utica wouldn’t even consider Classon a part of the neighborhood.  (Though, to be honest, it’s likely that these people wouldn’t even think about such trivialities, as to them Crown Heights is simply home, not some distinction to be mulled over and collected by imperializing suburban outsiders.)  

The show at Abigail’s is every Tuesday and is called fittingly Comedy Heights. 

Lately, I’ve been spending Tuesday nights at the Positively Awesome show at Cellar 58 in the East Village. (Look! I go to Manhattan, too!)  Like Abigail’s, Cellar 58 is a wine bar, although a more legitimate one. The microphone stand is placed at the back of the backroom of the Cellar, in front of pristine glass doors encasing shelf after shelf of wine bottles. The comics are under strict house guidelines to not even touch the glass. The room is small and narrow and occupied almost entirely by a Bruce Wayne-esque long wood table. The audience sits around on stools and watches the comic who performs at the head of the table. This setup gives performer and audience alike the feeling they are at an alternate version of The Last Supper, where after Jesus breaks bread and accuses one of his disciples of betrayal he gets up and does his five minutes. (Though if I had 12 people to watch my set, I would be totally stoked.)   

These are the shows I’ve been hitting frequently over the last few weeks, a combination of trying to avoid soul-crushing paid club mics and my desire to do shows with people I know.  And Abigail’s is like, a five a minute walk from my apartment.

Positively Awesome is a show produced by Abbi Crutchfield and Andrew Singer. Abbi was the host of the very first mic I did in New York City, the Root Hill Café last November. Oh, New York, how you make 9 months seem like 9 years.  The Root Hill show seems to have vanished, but Abbi and Andrew started P.A. in February and it continues strong.  The regular lineup features touring and local comedians, some friends of the producers who run their own shows, and some national, semi-famous headliners (Christian Finnegan and Ted Alexandro next week? Um, holy shit.) After the booked acts, P.A. switches to the Night Shift, a five spot open mic for anyone who would like.  It’s a wonderful idea and it’s all executed in an easy-breezy 90-minute package. Good stuff. I was actually on board to help promote the show when it started several months back, but typical of myself, I did it for a couple weeks and forgot about it and was too lazy and I could go on an on.  Who has a blog and is going to try and weasel his way back into this show? Answer: this guy.

Comedy Heights is in the basement of Abigail’s, in a room that looks not so much like a comedy venue and more like well, a basement. There’s a black-leather couch and a few scattered stools and benches facing a microphone flanked on each side by plants. It’s quite lovely.  The last time I worked Comedy Heights was the week before my Americorps show, and this set served as a final dress rehearsal for my clean set.  I showed up 20 minutes before the show started which is 90 minutes prior to when the show actually began. I stayed the entire show with the four people I brought, but decided on principle to not watch the “headliner” who watched not a single comic, showed up at the end and acted irate that I was leaving with my audience. I hate that shit. The host heckled me on the way out and said he would never book me again, despite the fact that getting “booked” on Comedy Heights requires little more then calling that morning and asking if you can be on.  I can guarantee that if I call next Tuesday morning, he will put me on without a second thought. 

The Stones Tavern is a weird place. A lot of establishments frame their “first” dollar on the wall as a keepsake, and it’s kitschy but endearing.  The Stones Tavern takes this to a whole new level, as the entire wall of the bar is adorned with literally hundreds of hung bills, including fives, tens, and even twenties! I spent at least a half an hour trying to count the money and gave up somewhere north of five hundred dollars. The bartender had no idea how much was actually up there.  I couldn’t help but think this money could be put too much better use in the hands of a food bank or the pockets of a struggling amateur comedian.

The Stones mic is a Brooklyn Underground Comedy show. Greenpoint is way too much of a bitch to get home from to risk going on at 11:30, so I always show up at the Stones Tavern nice and early to ensure a good spot. This usually leaves me alone at the bar an hour before any other comic shows up, and on one occasion I talked with one of the bartenders and she let me on the secret of the Stones Tavern, that being that is was named in honor of the Rolling Stones by the owner who is obsessed with the band, and instantly this became one of my favorite bars in the city, perhaps the world. I started to grill the bartender on why there weren’t pictures of the band on the walls or any of their music playing. This line of questioning escalated to the point where it seemed like I actually hurt the poor woman’s feelings, and I felt terribly guilty. It reminded me of how I felt after I got into an argument with a high school classmate over the Iraq war and how stupid the protesters who walked out of class were and she started to cry. (If by someway someday she ever reads this, I am so so so sorry. I was so incredibly wrong.)

So there you have it.  This weekend I have two great shows, and I feel good again. Thanks for sticking with me.  Evening.