Tuesday, April 27, 2010

For the Remarkably Wise and Handsome. (A video.)

I’ve been hesitant to put a video on this blog.  I could cite a thousand reasons why, but the most truthful is I’ve never liked one enough to tarnish We Could On and On with its presence. And I still don’t particularly like the video I've decided to post down below. Don’t get me wrong; the video is well edited and the quality is good. I just really hate watching myself perform. Hey, I think I’m a pretty good comedian. It’s just every time I see myself in a video, I can’t help but wonder why I wore that stupid shirt, why I didn’t shave, why I’m doing that “gay” thing with my hand, and why I even bothered with that pointless crowd work. 

There are a few unsolicited videos of me on YouTube, none of which I can stomach the nerve to watch.  In fact, the only video of myself I’ve ever not hated was of a show I did at the Comedy Studio in Cambridge, MA in December.   So when I found out that I had to submit a five-minute video to audition for a place in the New York Comedy Contest, there was never any doubt it was going to be of this show.  The only problem was the Comedy Studio set was 7 minutes long and if they stopped watching my set after minute 5, they would miss - in my opinion - my biggest laughs.

So I turned to Scoots.   Scoots “Scott” O’Leary, for those who don’t know, is one of my oldest friends.   It was the fall of 1991 when I stepped on my first school bus on then way to Kindergarten. And there in the second seat to the left was Scoots, sitting next to an older kid (2nd grader) with a plank of wood and a working light bulb.  From then on out, Scoots and I were inseparable. From BoyScout camps to baseball games to running across the hoods of cars after doing a powerhour of Goldschlager, we were the best of buds. Real Wonder-Years shit.    After such a history, there was no way Scoots could turn me away when I asked him if he could edit down my seven-minute set to five and make it seem natural.  Well, Scoots succeeded and this is the result. 

I submitted this to the New York Comedy Contest application page earlier. I will be sure to let you know the results. For those who can’t wait for the result, the answer is no, I was not accepted in the contest.  I hope I didn’t ruin the surprise.

From December 3, 2009. For consideration by the (remarkably wise and handsome) judges of the New York Comedy Contest. 

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Tiny Love Song.

I got myself a haircut at this little barber shop in Inwood yesterday, right on the corner of Dykman and Nagle. They even shaved my beard with a straight blade, Sweeny-Todd Style. The barber spoke barely any English, but we were able to communicate enough to get my hair and beard looking spectacular.

Everything is an event in New York; everything is another story. The word mundane wouldn’t show up anywhere in a 500,000 word history of New York City. In Massachusetts, a visit to the salon means a wasted hour at SuperCuts in the shopping plaza; in New York, a haircut means a middle-aged Puerto Rican with a straight-blade holster who takes periodic breaks to hip-hop dance with the other barbers. [That is 100 percent true.]

Visitors to New York and specifically Manhattan often have the same exasperated reaction: It was nice to visit, but I could never live there. They find New York City Way to crowded or Way to expensive or Way to vomit-and-garbage smelling. They report this back to their cozy suburbanites and go on extolling the many virtues of small-town living, presumably ignoring the rampant boredom and/or methamphetamine addiction. Before moving here several months back, I was guilty of similar shortsightedness. And believe me, there are times when I can not take the congestion, the 12-dollar beers, or the constant, omni-present smell of urine. I walk around Manhattan literally salivating at the idea of living anywhere else, and then I see people having sex in the park at ten in the morning and I feel a little better. [Also 100 percent true. It’s been a weird few weeks since my last post.]

A lot of times I hate living here, but I never, ever regret moving here. I think everyone should be required to live in New York City once, for two years, preferably at a time when they are young, idealistic and broke. For sure, they will all leave old, hopeless and broke but they will be wise. They will go back home unafraid and unimpressed. They will dread getting their haircut.

They can come here to follow their dreams and they will be ridiculed and they will probably fail. But its better they follow their dreams here then back home because it’s so much harder in New York. When they fail here they have failed among the best, and that’s better then the failures who never left town. Be proud of failing here. You’ve made it. Even if you’re booed off stage every night, you’re booed off a New York City stage. Back home they think just being here is success. Back home, you’re famous.

I was doing much better at this in Boston, but then again I was in Boston. I was dreaming of being here. And now I’m here in New York and I’m treading water, tiring out. Eventually I’ll sink and that’ll be OK. A tiny fish in a giant, giant ocean.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Year of Living Desperately.

Of all the sure-fire ways to get famous, I’ve discovered one that is surely the sure-firest. All you do is think of some routine, some anachronistic cultural ritual, some ridiculous pursuit, and do it every day for a preordained period of time, preferably a year. Then when you’re done write a book about it, or produce a documentary of it, or - to considerably lesser extent - blog about it, and wallah! You are now famous, or at the very least adorning advertisements on the subway.

That’s all you gotta do. It will literally work every time. It started with Morgan Spurlock, a Fu-Manchu-ed nobody who decided to film himself eating McDonalds every day and became famous while also losing the ability to bang his girlfriend. Mr. Spurlock and his “mission” became a national talking-point, spawned a TV show and even convinced McDonalds to change their dinner menu.

Super Size Me is hardly the only example of purposeful, documented excess. Journalist A. J. Jacobs practically lives his entire life this way. Among various other pursuits throughout his life, Jacobs spent in entire year following every rule of the Bible as literally and faithfully as possible, documenting it all in his 2007 memoir, The Year of Living Biblically. This includes such tasty tenants as stoning adulterers and sacrificing animals. The book was a bestseller, and has since been optioned by Brad Pitt’s movie company to become a feature film. There are plenty of crazed eccentrics who underwent such an ordeal and wrote about their experience. There’s Robyn Okrant’s Living Oprah: My One-Year Experiment to Walk the Walk of the Queen of Talk. (All those retched books!) There’s Ed Dobson’s The Year of Living Like Jesus (Little known Jesus-fact: He had terrible Athlete’s foot) and there’s Homer Glumplett’s The Year of Living Maury Povich-ly: One Man’s Attempt to Deny any Physical Resemblance to All His Kin. (Totally made up by me.)

Well, you know, yours truly isn’t above shamefully leeching on to any an all socio/pop phenomena for personal gain. So it is here I declare I will be going under a strenuous, completely illogical journey and then subsequently documenting it here and subsequently becoming famous and being asked on Oprah or at the they very least Craig Ferguson. The only problem is coming up with an interesting quest. This is where I will need your help, faithful, sexy readers.

I do have some ideas. I would like my quest to be distinctly New York, partly because I want to maintain the theme of this blog but primarily because I lack the funds to go anywhere else. And while the point of an undertaking of this sort is to be challenging, I can’t make mine excessively challenging because my garbage man by day/comedian by night dichotomy makes it hard to tackle any full-time commitment. And it’s not as if I can stop doing either of those. I’m also not eating meat, so A Year of Living Carnivorously is out. (Although for somebody else, a year of anti-vegetarianism – absolutely no non-animals – would be interesting. You heard it here first if this ever does happen. I’m contacting a lawyer.)

So here are three ideas I’ve come up with. My first inclination was A Year of Living Bad Slava, in which I would try to go to every single open mic listed on Bad Slava.com New York City’s finest open mic list (currently about 80 mics listed in New York City alone) and writing about each of them. Logistically this wouldn’t be impossible. I get out of work too late for the 4pm mics, but I could focus on getting to all the late mics and then if I’m really chugging along, I can take a few afternoons off to finish the list. Seems like a noble pursuit, but something tells me many comics have already done this, without giving it a second thought.

My second idea was a Year of Living Transit-ly, in which I attempt to ride every single public transit line in New York City. Every subway, every bus, every MetroNorth Train, every LIRR, every PATH train and on and on. I could handle this on weekends and it would almost certainly bankrupt me. But my personal finances are in such disarray that it really wouldn’t make any differences. I don’t particularly like this plan because even if I did it, it wouldn’t be much of an accomplishment. What would even write about? The conditions of the MetroNorth bathroom? No, this one is stupid.

My final idea was a Year of Living Pamphlet-ly, in which I respond to and comply with every pamphlet, brochure, and coupon handed to me on the streets of Manhattan. Every hair-braiding, pizza shop, or night club pamphlet I come in contact with, I have to accept and dutifully follow. This one is, in my opinion, the best idea I could come up with, as it would no doubt lead me to hilarious and interesting situations, but it is by far the biggest commitment.

Clearly I need your help. Any suggestions would be much appreciated. I recently asked my good friend Scoots, and he was about as helpful as a blind man in an Easter Egg hunt. So anything would be better then Scoots. Let me know any way you like. I would appreciate it very much. Hell, I always do, every day of the year.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spare a Moment?

A group of younger ladies, dolled up on their way to a night out, walk right by me ignoring every word I say. A couple breaks off the group and retreats to the corner of Bleeker and MacDougal, where I’m standing.

“We need to get to Bowery,” says the greasy blonde one, face like a pastel painting. “She needs to refill her Herpes prescription.”

“Bowery? We’re on the West Side,” I said. “Aren’t there any closer places to get that?” (I know a thing or two about this.)

“Well, can you recommend any?”

“Um… I don’t know. There’s a Duane Reade right there. Is it simplex one or two?”

“You’re gross. I bet you aren’t a very good comedian.” The greasy blonde grabs her out-breaking friend and walks away toward Bowery in quest of Valtrex.

“[Stunned silence]…. Facebook me.”

And so it went on. Last week, I finally succumbed to barking for a Comedy Club in exchange for stage time. Which means it’s time for another installment of Fancy Comedian Lingo:

Barking: v. 1. Standing on a street corner and trying to convince complete strangers to come to a comedy show on a whim by promising them there will be professional comics on the bill. 2.Lying to strangers. 3. Wondering if you should even bother to ask the old Asian lady or the guy in the wheelchair.

Being asked for advice on Herpes treatment options is actually among the nicer reactions I got from people. Most common was the glacial, silent stare, as if to say: “how dare you offer me those free comedy tickets? How dare you?”

Another common response was to utilize me as a sort-of human Map Quest and ask for directions. This is a distinctly New York response to a barker; to outright deny what I’m selling but still want me to do something for them. "No, I don’t have time for your shit and just for bothering me, I want you to do me a favor. Where’s Arby’s?"

Barking for stage time was inevitable. I really, really didn’t want to do it. But unless I continue to beg my dwindling-group of friends to pay an average of forty dollars to see me do the same routine, I’m stuck. My other option was to enter as many comedy contests as I could, but that route has been one epic failure after another.

It’s realLy not all that bad, however. For one, no one is supervising you, so the barker is pretty much free to say whatever the hell they want. It only takes about ten minutes of rejection to stop caring what people think about you. One of my favorite techniques was to take a cue from those infuriating hipsters looking for money for third-world children and ask: “Spare a moment for a stand-up comedy? Sir? All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing!! They do nothing!!” It never works but it usually gets them to turn around a couple more times.

That’s the other thing: There’s nothing on the line when barking for stage time; no African child’s dinner depends on your success. It was very comforting to remind myself. It made me feel much less guilty when I would take sporadic breaks to get a slice of dollar pizza or give a handful of tickets to a homeless person to make it look as if I was working much harder.

If a person says no, I had no problem saying whatever and suggesting we get dinner instead. Still no? How ‘bout just a couple drinks then? Some Coffee? Come on, I’m a nice guy. You got a boyfriend? What’s your number? By the time I got to the last few questions, the woman was several yards passed me, her gait increasing with every word I said. I amuse myself.

When I barked last week I wasn’t alone, which helped. I barked alongside fellow Bostonian comic Emma Willman. It’s inexplicable that I’ve come this far in We Could Go On and On and haven’t mentioned Emma yet (or any of the other Boston comedian friends I miss dearly – that article is coming.) Emma is a wonderful comedian. You probably think I am just saying that, as I have a certain predilection for just saying things, but this one I actually mean. Emma has this one joke - I don’t want to ruin it for you - but it’s about New York City and what it does to the twinkle in one’s eye. It’s great.

Anyway, she sucks as barking too, so it was nice to have her there. We both managed to get enough people in to have a show (mostly Englishman for some reason) and we both went on almost dead last. It was around midnight by the time we took the stage. Modesty be damned, Emma and I tore it up, and were leagues ahead of some of the other “professional” comics who got stage time only by reaping the rewards of our hard work. Our time is coming though. It’s not right around the corner, but it’s up ahead there. We’ll get there.

Until then, I’ll be at the street corner, hustlin’. Fancy a comedy ticket? How about directions to the club? Some cream for that bothersome cold sore?