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?