Yesterday I performed as a part of the Coney Island Talent Show. Emceed by the World Famous B.O.B, the event was a spectacle. Before I went on, there was a rainstorm. I had a headache and a final proof of a book I had to finish marking in pen. There was no way I was going. Finally I said screw it. I would go. When I got to the boardwalk an Asian chick was singing a Whitney Houston song. She wasn’t bad. Then Jessica Delfino went up and rocked it on her yuke. Looking into the crowd of diverse boardwalkers I saw adults and children.
Were there language restrictions? I hadn’t asked.
While I have worked clean, it had only been for kids events. I had done family events when I was younger, but for the most part I had grown up in the basements and nightclubs of New York City. Corporate bookers wanted clean, however to survive in an environment where whiskey was infused into the floorboards you had to be dirty, edgy, and raw. It was as if you were an outcast if you were not. Things got to the point where I had swung the pendulum the other way. I was dirty, edgy, and raw. Sometimes I walked people. Walking people could be fun. Yes, I lost booking but fuck it. No one wanted to get drunk, forget, and hear family friendly jokes as they were forced to bear a various storm of comics and a two drink minimum.
Just then I asked Jessica about the language restriction if there was one, because much like me she is a risk taker onstage. She told me there had been one, and the organizer had told her because she knew her act. We both agreed while we were entertainers, we wanted to make our set appropriate for our audience because it sucked to leave anyone feeling bad. But why had I not asked? Why had I not known?
Just then I went through my rolodex in my head. I organized my clean jokes and rewrote my set. In the tent I played the new act over and over again. I had to rework and memorize fast before things went to complete hell. I saw Bob Greenberg and lamented that I hadn’t known. “Watch us tank and watch them hate me.” I bemoaned.
Bob patted me on the head and told me I could do it. He assured me working clean would get me more bookings and now was my chance to do something new. Still, if I had known ahead of time I would have had an awesome clean set. Still there was no time to bitch and moan. I had to work. As the show began, it seemed like time was endless and I would never get to go up. Sweat dropped off my brows and I was going to screw this up. Finally I heard my name called. Part of me was ready to die a horrible comedic death. The other half of me was ready to rise to the challenge. I took a deep breath and walked to the stage.
I began my set minus the dirty joke in the beginning. The people laughed. Okay, we were doing well. Then May Wilson came out. The people laughed again. We were doing well. We began our set and we had a heckler for a split second but I was going to continue and just stay calm. I needed to keep the comebacks clean for the kiddies. After seeing I wasn’t going to entertain his stupidity, the heckler shut up. We continued and the audience laughed. We hit joke after joke of this set, often different and more risqué, rewritten on the spot. Gone were the references to blow jobs, drugs, and the ex-cons I used to date. Replacing them was the laughter of people of all ages, including children, who snapped photos of us. Finally, feeling our time was up and there not being a light we made our exit. As usual I could have finished stronger but I didn’t care.
I had killed it and done so without a curse word. I had rewritten my set on the spot. They had not known I was shaking in my boots. Bob Greenberg, my cheerleader who had given me a hell of a pep talk was by the stage ready to congratulate me. “You worked clean and the audience laughed. You did good.” Bob said giving me a big hug.
The rest of the show was amazing. There was the sword juggler who terrified me yet was amazing at the same time. There was Bob Greenberg and Joe Bevilacqua were awesome as Abbot and Costello in “Who’s on First?” Of course, there was Dr. Lucky and her merry-go-round routine that was clever, amazing, and sexy in that PG-13 sort of way. No one was dirty. No one swore. Everyone of all ages could enjoy the show and they did from the magic to the strong man to the contortionist.
They announced the winners and I didn’t qualify for a prize. I never win talent shows. The sword juggler won first, Bob and Joe second (and they were amazing, they deserved it) and Dr. Lucky third as well as for best costume which was also deserved. More than anything, I was proud of myself for breaking the mold. I had managed to work clean, and had not sacrificed my identity.
I wanted to award myself, and decided once the show was over there would be cheese fries involved. So after the photos were taken, I indulged into some cheese fries with plenty of cheese and bacon bits. I probably gained a few pound but it was a well-deserved treat. As I gobbled my meal, I watched the people walk by having a good time. The sun began to set and let out a heavenly glow.
I began to think of how much I have grown up, especially on the stage in NYC. Performing had gotten me through some of my loneliest times as a young woman. Standup had rescued me and kept me from leaving the city one rainy night when I wanted to throw in the towel because I didn’t fit in anywhere. Standup had kept me sane during a breakup with an ex who was so damaged the only way he could communicate was by threatening. Standup was now back in my life, and it had enabled me to do all the things I had done this past year. Standup was now bringing me into a new era of my life, one where I wasn’t so angry and mean.
As I tossed the empty cheesefries container into the trash can, I also threw away an angry young woman who’s only method of communication behind the mic was to yell. I tossed out the psychotic abusive ex and all the losers that came after him. I tossed out the side of me, the destructive force that only sets to ruin. I also tossed out Holden Caulfield because I had been missing him. I decided I had done a lot this past year.
I had become a role model for young people during my time as a talking head. I had written a book that is soon to be available to buy. I had recorded music that charted on smaller radio. My videos were hits. This was a new era for the Superfoxxx. Of course May Wilson can work clean. Girl wants to make mad money so she can buy labels.
Then I saw the amount of calories in cheesefries.
|L to R: Joe Bevilacqua, World Famous B.O.B., Bob Greenberg, Dirty Martini, May Wilson and April Brucker|