When you think about it, 40 dollars for 15 minutes of work is pretty darn good. I took some time this past week to do the math and discovered that works out to 160 dollars per hour. Now only if they’d let me do an 8-hour set.
Alas, they only needed me for 15 minutes at The Spectator’s in New Rochelle. I could have (forgive me) gone on and on.
So that’s 110 unpaid days in New York City for a 40-dollar pay-check on day 111. It took exactly 112 days to get paid for joke-telling in Boston last year. So I’m one day ahead of schedule. The big test however, will be how long it takes to get to payday number 2. Last year it took a mere 14 days. Not going to happen in New York City.
Still, no reason to complain. I’ve had a rather fantastic couple of days. Yesterday, New York was buried in unyielding snow, and there was no sense in going door-to-door office-supply selling. So I got myself an unexpected three-day weekend. I took my second drunken walk through Prospect Park in the snow early in the day (there is nothing quite like having a good buzz on while watching The Price is Right) and it was far more successful, as I was accompanied by my also-drunk roommates.
Where the hell was I?
Oh yes, The Spectator’s. My first paying gig in New York. It wasn’t in New York City, but to the north in the City of New Rochelle. New Rochelle is the seventh largest city in New York, and the home of Dick Van Dyke.
I was offered the show a month ago by friend and fellow comic Amy, who long-time readers of this blog will remember as AC, the host of the See You Next Tuesday mic. She grew up in New Rochelle and still lives there, in the very apartment she lived as a child, indeed the very room in which she was born. AC was born without medical assistance in her mother’s bed. As she puts it: “my mom thought she had to take a shit and instead I started coming out.” This no-nonsense, get-out-of-my-way attitude AC displayed during her birth is still evident today.
Once I got a look at AC’s apartment, I realized why no one would want to leave. The place is a veritable palace; it makes my already ragged apartment in Brooklyn look like a Confederate prison. I guess that’s the benefit of living outside the five boroughs.
AC lived only a few blocks from The Spectator’s, a fairly typical sports bar with the exception of its size. It’s gigantic. Perhaps my judgment was warped by the always-cramped quarters of New York City, but I couldn’t get over the cavernous interior at the Specs. There was a large square bar in the front center, surrounded on all sides by booths for sit-down dining. In the back was a stage at least 6 feet off the ground, making it first set I’ve done with a legitimate chance I would fall to my death before getting to my closer.
The Specs was hoping, but the majority of the clientele were loitering around the square bar, seemingly hundreds of yards from the stage. I did a little barking before the show, trying to convince people to move closer without letting them know I was actually performing. I’m not sure this actually convinced anyone. I opened the show and did a solid 15. I love doing 15 minutes, just enough time to roll out all my “hits.” The comic after me entered stage to sci-fi music and smoke machines dressed up in a Snuggie and Elton John sunglasses. I forgot the name of this character. The crowd seemed befuddled, but I appreciated it. I’ve seen hundreds upon hundreds of comics with the same old schtick; (myself certainly included) it’s refreshing to see someone in a dollar-store costume claiming to be from space and talking about interplanetary intercourse. And stand-up comedy is just about the only profession in the world where you can claim that. It’s what makes it so great.
I thought I did all right. Wasn’t among my best, but I didn’t seem overwhelmed. It was odd to do a show so high up, I was literally staring down at people in the front row. I had a maddening impulse to check my fly the entire set.
Afterwards, I drank free beer at the Spectator’s behest. AC sat across from me at the booth and with subtle, drug-dealer precision, handed me a sweaty wad of ten dollars bills. Four of them to be exact. And with that, I became a professional New York Comedian. I may never again get another dime to tell a joke in this city, but that will always be true.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I must visit the Automatic Teller and withdraw enough money to pay for admittance to the afternoon open mics this week. But I’ll hit the stage with a little more confidence this time. Step back junior, a pro is going to work.