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 CafĂ© 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. 

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Lunchtime Post: A Proper Blogger

I have come up with an experiment.  I have an hour to kill at lunch and ever since discovering our break room has wireless, I’ve brought my laptop to work each day with the expressed purpose being to work on jokes, blogs and stories, but surprise surprise I’ve spent just about every lunch endlessly browsing Facebook and Wikipedia-ing everything from poison ivy to assorted brands of General Mills cereal.  I tend to lose focus, in other words. 

So I’m going to try to maximize my lunch break by speed-writing a blog and posting it that same day. Hopefully I can pull this off a couple times a week, and that will help people maintain their sanity during the increasingly long intervals between longer posts, the ones I write at home in my underwear, like a proper blogger.  Be advised however, that these Lunchtime Posts, as I have just now christened them, will be harried, and as such, not the 1500 word, multifaceted blog stews of which you perhaps have become accustomed. No, these will be whatever comes to mind and will be written in between spoonfuls of Cup-o-Noodles and falling peanut butter.  

ANYWAY, this is my first Lunchtime Post, and seeing as I’ve already wasted 15 minutes explaining it, I best be begin. This is what comes to mind.

I was foraging thru my cell phone on the subway today (cell phones become nothing but digital phonebooks without service, yet I can’t help compulsively checking it on the ride in) and I stumbled upon a seldom-used feature: the template function. The template is a feature in just about any cell phone, and it’s basically nothing but a short list of pre-equipped text messages that can be utilized by the texter in a hurry. The messages are usually what the phone deems to be the most commonly used texts, generic statements like: “Running late, be there in a few” and “Where are currently located?” etc.    I can’t understand why anyone would be in such a hurry that the 11 seconds saved sending the template would actually be helpful. But the templates do have one redeeming feature: they can be edited. So if I’m always running late to work, I can edit my templates to say “Running late, Mr.Tewilliger, be there in a few,” or if I can never find my dealer I can modify it to “Where are you currently located, White Rabbit?” and the fun can literally go on and on.    But the most fun I found, and what kept me away from my book on the commute, was to completely edit the template to near nonsense, to make the messages so absurdly specific they can almost certainly never be used. After a few stops on the A train, I had completely modified my templates.

I found the 7th template Just checking in… to be completely useless and so I changed it to the far more direct Have You Been Bee-Keeping Again?!  You never know when that may come in handy.   I totally deleted the lame What are you up to? and replaced it with Don’t Tell Margaret, but Charles is smoking again, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve to laboriously type out this text in the past.  Other templates include I left the steaks defrosting in the sink. No more salad for dinner! and The car wouldn’t start this morning, I’d call mother for a ride…If she were still with us L

These will never be used of course, but at the very least, if someone finds my phone after I die, they will assume I lived a very interesting life.

On this subject, I have always thought that juice bottles, which are fond of placing esoteric phrases on the bottoms of their caps, should adopt my program. Rather then having your Cranberry Tea’s cap advising you to Smile! Today is a new day why not have it proclaim Dan, do not got to work today, Chelsea is very upset? For millions of tea enthusiasts, this cap will invoke only head scratches, but one day, a Dan will have a hankering for Cranberry Tea, and that Dan will have a job, and at that job will be a woman named Chelsea and wallah! Dan’s life is changed forever.

And now time is running out on my lunchtime post. I think this went well. Expect more. (Unless you really hate them. So let me know.)