Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Not So Fast and Not Really Furious

Tuesday night I drove my car into the city for a set, which is something I rarely do. The driving in part, I mean, I do sets pretty regularly. But I took advantage of the fact that on Wednesday there are no alternate side rules on my street and treated myself to a drive to and from my show. It was like I knew I was getting a free cab ride home and I was downright giddy.

Driving home after the show (which went very well, thank you) I had to make a left from Houston onto Bowery and I was in the middle of the intersection on a green light waiting for an opening in traffic so I could turn. A cab pulled up behind me and honked.

Now, the cab could see traffic just as well as I could so he knew full well there wasn’t a gap in traffic coming any time soon, so this must have been one of those preemptive honks, the kind you get when the light is about to turn green and the guy behind you wants to make sure you’re ready. Apparently this cabbie thought there was a chance that I had forgotten I wanted to turn left, even though I was out as far into the intersection as I could go and I had my signal on.

A gap big enough for just me opened up and I gunned it through the intersection, hoping to lose the cab, but he bolted through the intersection too, causing oncoming motorists to brake, and his fare (I’m pretty sure) to pee his/her pants. He swung out into the other lane of traffic and tried to pass me, but the light at the next block was red and we both ended up on the line.

It was time to race. I knew it. He knew it. His fare knew it.

I watched the pedestrian signals for the crossing traffic and the red hand started to blink on and off. I put my car in gear, my foot on the clutch.

The other light turned yellow and my heart started to race. I gripped the steering wheel and took a breath.

As I watched the yellow light, waiting for it to turn red, I heard the cab’s engine rev to life. I looked over and the cab had taken off. I looked up at my light which was still red.

I screamed “D.Q!!! D.Q.!!!” Which, as anyone familiar with drag racing can tell you, means ‘disqualified’ but the cabbie couldn’t hear me, being three lengths ahead of me.

I couldn’t let this go uncontested. He had to know he had been disqualified. My light turned green, I popped the clutch and took off.

This being New York it was about three seconds before we hit another red light and I pulled up alongside him again. With a satisfied grin I yelled, “D.Q.” out the window.

The cabbie had no sense of humor, and apparently no familiarity with the vernacular of drag racing, because he yelled back “Not deke me, deke you!”

I couldn’t race him again because I was laughing too damn hard, but someday I will get my rematch.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

New Rules for Disclosure

Telling people that I'm a comedian is always a risky proposition. It can lead to many follow-up questions that range from mundane to downright rude. "Can you make a living doing that?" is one of my favorites. What other occupation can you have where people feel that's an apporpriate question to ask?

For a long time I would avoid telling people I was a comedian in order to avoid the inevitable interrogation. I would say I was musician with a day job, a writer, a graphic designer, Russian spy.

But I'm proud of what I do and how I do it, so lately I've just been saying "comedian" when people ask, resigning myself to answer at least a couple of the less annoying questions that are sure to follow.

But after some recent socializing at non-comedy-related functions I think I need to tweak my protocols for discussing my profession with non comics. Or, more precisely, I'm going to actually stop discussing my profession with non comics.

I don't want to be rude, but a lot of people think they can talk shop about comedy, and so many people have opinions on the subject because they're the funny person in their group of friends. That's swell if you're that person, lots of non comedians are really funny people, but that's not the same thing as doing a specific type of performance and writing, i.e. standup comedy.

I think some people assume that when I call myself a comedian I'm trying to say that I'm funnier than they are, and they feel insulted. "You're a comedian? You think you're funnier than me? F&%$ you, you don't look that funny to me. I'm the funniest person in this room, someone love me!"

For the record, I'm not saying I'm funnier than anyone, I'm just saying "I'm a comedian."

Or a Russian spy.

Monday, March 20, 2006

So many sour people

The comedy business always amazes me by how sour so many people working in it can be. This is why I don't work as much as I'd like.

Today's the day I force myself to make the phone calls to clubs and bookers in hopes of being able to send in a tape to be considered for work at new clubs. When I make these calls I'm not yet asking for work, I'm not trying to borrow money, I'm not calling to collect unpaid parking tickets, I don't even ask for anything other than "is so-and-so available," and people act like they just caught me in a compromising position with their teenage daughter. While they reach for their shotgun I'm on the other end of the phone stammering, "I was hoping to maybe talk to..."

It's what I hate doing the most. Getting up in front of a room of hundreds of rowdy drunks for some reason doesn't phase me as much as trying to make one stinkin' phone call to a club booker.

Sometimes people are mean when you're not even asking for anything. Recently when I was working a club on the road the emcee took me to a local comedy show and introduced me to the host. I wasn't looking for a spot, I was just there to socialize, but he still struck an arrogant tone and asked in an ironically hipster way, "and where would I know you from?"

Before I could say, "you wouldn't know me, I'm just stopping by," the emcee said, "he's been on Premium Blend," to which he responded, "and that's some sort of program?" Right, you're a comedian and you haven't heard of the show that most comedians get their first t.v. spots on. You're very subtle.

And it wasn't just me taking it the wrong way, the emcee apologized profusely the rest of the week for the guy's behavior, which was kind but unnecessary, but at least I knew it wasn't all in my head.

The best was when I visited San Francisco a few years back to hang out with a comedian I knew from Chicago. He moved to San Fran shortly after I moved to New York so half the time he would introduce me as his friend from Chicago, the other half as a comedian visiting from New York.

When the San Francisco comics heard I was from Chicago they were very sweet and engaging, asking how long I was in town and if I was performing while there. If I was introduced as being from New York they would look askance and, as if we were playing poker, say, "New York, huh?"

I know, I should just get over it, or at least work to improve in this area. But I'd rather do anything than this. I'll schedule dentist appointments, work on my taxes, talk to Jehova's Witnesses, write blog posts...

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Craziest Ass Week Ever

Let's see, in 7 days I saw Johnny Rotten, sang karaoke with comedy stars, had an entire bar singing along with me during an impromptu late night set in which I played Hungry Like the Wolf by Duran Duran, went to my friend's bar that turned into a fundraiser for the L.A. Derby Dolls all-women roller derby team, and flew back to NYC after staying up all night.

What I'm saying is I had a blast in L.A. last week, thanks to all who came out to my show on Tuesday and thanks to all me homies, old and new, that showed me a good time.

I'm not so much glad to be back in NYC as I am relieved. Brooklyn seems so peaceful and bucolic after spending so much time on the edge of skid row in downtown L.A.

Now that I'm back though I've been able to finish editing my latest video podcast/blog post. It should be up within the day.

Time to sleep some more.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Hollywood is in Traction Today

Hollywood is in traction today after spending the entire night blowing itself. I had no idea this was Academy Award weekend when I scheduled this little West Coast excursion and I'm glad it's over. I celebrated this morning by going to the gym and I had one of those "it only takes a couple a-holes" moments.

It really does only take a couple of a-holes to ruin things for everyone. Today's example came in the form of a woman in the morning aerobics class who was doing aerobics in 6-inch heels. Big-ass stripper shoes with 6-inch heels. And she wasn't even following the instructor, just doing her own moves in the corner dressed completely inappropriately for her activity.

A lot of people would say "that's so L.A." or "welcome to Hollywood," dismissing it as just the way people are out here. But the truth is there were 12 other people in class there trying to workout like normal, dressed in normal workout gear with actual gym shoes on, and it was only one loon twirling in the corner like a chick on mushrooms at a Dave Matthews concert.

Maybe I should be more open-minded and let people do their own thing. But sometimes I wish people would do their own thing in their own home.