Sunday, January 31, 2010

Grisly Man.

The beard endures.

It was supposed to be gone by now - last Friday to be exact. But here I am, 9 days later, still looking like Randy Savage. You see, a few days after Thanksgiving I made a pact with myself: no shaving until I am paid to tell jokes in New York City. I didn’t tell a lot of people about this plan because I was too worried of going forever without pay and looking like I spent the last four years living in solitude on an island talking to a volleyball.

So when I was offered a chance to perform in Manhattan on Friday night and get a cut of the door, I was understandably siked. Thinking that my beard was facing its imminent demise, I started to let people in on the pact. But I forgot to take into consideration that this was New York City and nothing is ever as good as it seems. I wasn’t paid and I didn’t shave and I can now floss my teeth with my mustache.

I’m glad I got that out of the way because I don’t feel like complaining. I had two shows this past week at the Grisly Pear in Greenwich Village and they both went great. I didn’t get paid, but I was compensated with two shots of invigorating, dream-chasing adrenaline, right in the vein. After shows like the duo at the Grisly Pear, I start to think this whole becoming a successful stand-up comic thing may actually be possible. Good stuff.

The first gig was on a Friday night and the house was packed. The Grisly Pear is on MacDougal Street, steps from Washington Square Park and as such, many, many opportunities to purchase marijuana. The Grisly Pear, you may have noticed, is clearly a pun for Grizzly Bear but with the odd misspelling of Grizzly. The word Grisly means “causing a shudder or a feeling of horror” so the bar’s name, taken literally, conjures up images of murderous, maniacal fruit. Comedy at the Pear is held in the back room behind the main bar. There is a small stage cluttered with karaoke equipment, and an ancient projection television, the ones where the picture all but disappears if you sit within 30 yards of the screen.

Thanks to the enterprising of my roommates, I had a small brigade of fans for my first show, and none of them knew how close the show came to not going on at all.

I was offered the gig by my friend Fabio Ianella, a fellow comic and one of the co-founders of Brooklyn Underground Comedy. But Fabio was putting on the show as a favor for a friend of his, who had booked his first show at the Pear and then decided he wasn’t going to show up. Rather then abandoning the show, the friend asked Fabio to run it and Fabio in turn asked me to be on the bill. The deal was half the door for each guest I could bring in, and at a $10 cover with around 20 people there for yours truly, I was standing to make a nice little bounty for 10 minutes of work.

At least these were the terms that Fabio was given by his friend. When we met with management, it was obvious they had a different idea. I was told that there was a $10 cover and no drink minimum, and this is the information I relayed to my friends. The boss’ at the Pear however, wanted to up the cover and enforce a two drink minimum. Now all the comics were put in a precarious position; either impose the house rules on their friends after telling them otherwise, or accept no pay in exchange for the bar waiving the cover charge. Or stand our ground and not do the show. Not surprisingly, there was a near-unanimous decision among the comics to work the show for free. I was actually in the minority. I wanted to enforce the rules and get paid, figuring they’re going to drink regardless of a minimum. But I was overwhelmed. If it weren’t for all my friends who made thier way down, I like to think I would have marched right out of there, taking with me every salt shaker and beer mug I passed.

But that’s New York. Your dreams really can come true here, but you’re going to get fucked along the way.

I went up there and I killed. I don’t feel false modesty is needed here. I’ve been willing to detail my many failures and epic bombs, so it’s only fair that I get to tell you when I really nailed it, and that first show at the Grisly Pear I was on fire. I’m finally getting a working set, jokes I know I can use at booked shows which in turn frees up open mics for new material and experimentation. This development pleases me.

Karaoke was scheduled for after the show, but none of us stayed. Which was fine; I wasn’t much in the mood to give the bar any more business.

I was back there in a few days anyway. The following Thursday I did the Comedy Party USA. It’s co-produced by Michael Reardon, another comic who moved to New York City from the Boston area. Mike and I met at our Alma Marta, Salem State College, where he co-founded Salem State’s venerable improve/sketch comedy troupe, Grandma’s Third Leg. I was a member of the troupe for two years, but after Mike had graduated. He had never seen me do stand-up before so when he booked me he was putting his entire reputation on the line. Not really, but I used it to pump myself up before the show.

The crowd at the Pear on Thursday was considerably smaller, but the energy was better. Everyone was killing. People were cracking up at the setups. It was one of the shows were I sit the audience dying to get on stage, worried I’ll get up after the buzz fades. The energy never waned that night. It was top to bottom excellent, the best show in my three months in New York.

Afterwards, all of us in a joyous mood, we drank. One woman, severely intoxicated, passed out in a booth and had to be picked up and carried out onto MacDougal Street by the bouncer, and then literally held up by the bouncer and a waitress while they waited for a taxi. Eventually they called off the taxi and ordered an ambulance. The medics dragged the poor woman in the back and sped off. We watched the whole scene, and then perhaps felt bad for drinking more. But we did, late into the night.

Comedy was good to me this week. Sure I didn’t get paid, but I’m feeling good about this again. Recharged. And of course, I still have the beard. Could be a while longer before that’s gone.

I must say, I look rather imposing with the beard. Violent maybe. I wouldn’t approach me on a desolate, midnight subway. I’d stay away from the grisly, grizzly man.

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