Tuesday, November 5, 2013

More Than a Woman (Tavares/The Bee Gees)

I have been doing a lot of thinking about back in the day when I was just starting out. Things are different now obviously. At the time I lived on Water Street. In the morning I would jog across the Brooklyn Bridge. The thing about that bridge is that you can always hear the rumble of the trains. As you jog it shakes the bridge a little bit, and there is a part of you that feels the thing will topple into the water killing you. But then you realize this happens every day, and it sort of becomes an ingredient in the whole magic feel of the city you now call home.

One song that always played on my radio with headphones was the song by the Bee Gees or The Tavares, depending on which recording was playing. I found my way to comedy after having my heart broken by a man I was seeing. He was older but had a sweet pad. I wanted love, he wanted the ever eternal sensation of having a much younger girlfriend. To boot, he led me on in a toxic dance for almost the next year. Nevermind, I was going to be strong. My whole life I had been told I was funny. The idea of being a true comedian scare me because you had to be funny. I just wanted to be me. This was scary. Plus if you tanked.....it was like death.

Eventually I bit the bullet and did a bringer show and killed. I did bringers until I exhausted all my friends. As you could imagine many of them lost my phone number and one jokingly claimed she was dead. I was sick of my act too. So I did a lot of open mics and met a lot of characters. Many would probably have been better suited to a therapist's couch than a comedy club open mic but nevermind. We all had a dream. It seemed like it was out of reach to all of us. We were chasing the proverbial dragon, unlike cocaine there was no guaranteed high. However we were willing to risk anything to go after it like a good crack feind.

There was Barry Lawrence, one of my first friends in comedy. An older brother type who was more often than not an angel in disguise, he kept me on track and talked me out of doing my usual stupid stuff. After that was Al Weinstein, a Jewish wannabe comedian who was married for a Puerto Rican woman that he was always on thin ice with. Mostly underemployed, Al chirped about wanting to cheat on his wife. However this was the most cheat free situation ever. Then there was Quinn Harmon, the chain smoking white dude from Texas who said the n word onstage and got away with it. Oh and then there was Rochelle Johnson, the black former beauty queen who was the only person that didn't let Quinn Harmon get away with his crap. In that mix lest we not forget Birdy Douglass, a tough talking hood chick who cussed out a comedy club manager we all hated. And then there was Ella Villa, a Spanish chick who said dirty things and shamelessly slept with headliners for stage time. I cannot forget Ron Santiago, who really used to look down upon my act because he was one of the cool kids. Later he would become a huge supporter. Oh and then there was Don Bosco, a long haired semi-homeless open mic host who used to give me walk on spots on his late show and always had candy laced with something in his pocket. Last but not least, there was Thor Svennson, an overeducated art star who talked down to everyone he met. However, he was the only financially secure one out of the group with his own moving company.

The promoters were even bigger characters. There was Jacob Jankowicz, a gay Jewish booker who sucked the blood out of comedians for his booker showcases. Like a snake he hid at the clubs and looked for fresh blood selling young hopefuls fake dreams. Will Berkley was an old burnt out comic who pressured the young comedians also to do bringer showcases. Quick to critique others, none of us had ever seen the man do anything but bomb. Then there was George King, the eternal middle management of comedy who produced shows but also sucked the life out of the room when he got onstage. Davey McCuen had a messy home life, a dream, and a newborn son. His wife detested his struggling artist attitude, but eventually he dumped her and the kid for a much younger babe. Isaac Greenberg had an open mic where you were graded on professional behavior, and stabbed everyone in the back to operate a room that became a bringer and barker glory hole, only to eventually be fired. Luigi Fiorio booked a dirty room and screamed when he got behind the mic. He dated female comedians who's focus was on getting boob jobs and not writing jokes, but he was always good to me. Last but not least was Terrence Brooks. An urban promoter, he always had big plans and was the master of the smoke screen. A career extra, he often seduced hot girls from his movies into doing his comedy shows. These debuts were a disaster but entertaining to those watching. While a character, he always believed in me too.

It's amazing how many people that I started with are no longer around. To some, standup was too hard. Others got married, had kids, and got a life. They discovered I suppose that there was more to this world than killing or tanking onstage. Many found other ways to express their voice. Some found success writing for television shows, using the standup as a springboard ultimately to another goal. Others found success in acting, using standup for the same thing. Some do voice work and you hear them but don't see them. Others went back to a first love such as music or visual art. One girl became a baker which was random.

I was talking to an old friend of mine who fell out of performing for quite a few years about the people who we used to know that seemingly just disappeared. It's weird. Some were the cats meow and then they were gone. It's also crazy how some awesome things have not just happened for me, but others that I started with. One thing I noticed is that standup is the starting line, but then there are different ways people go. Some continue to do standup. Others write. Some act. Then there are the people who become club owners, producers, and managers. But however, if you finish the race you end up working together which is kind of cool. I am starting to see a little bit of that now. I find myself being called to audition for things because I am recommended by peeps who performed with me once upon a time who now work on the production end. Love and generosity have been coming from peeps who are now club owners too. As for some of my peeps who got Comedy Central Specials, I congratulate them on that, and they give me kudos for my book. When we sit down and talk about the old days, we laugh about all those crazy experiences and the characters we knew. The stage was our school and we grew up together.

I find myself with a lot of those old feelings now as I try to assemble my network friendly set. It's another due I have to pay to get to the next level. I am back to hitting the mics, back with those same characters. While I know what a TV credit and publishing a semi-successful book feels like, I have to do the work. I am back to melting down. I am back to second guessing myself. I am rolling my eyes when they sneak in the drink requirement after robbing me of five dollars. But I am safe here. The public is not ready to see my act. After three days of wanting to kill myself, I went up yesterday. I killed it with my clean set.

Of course, I messaged one of my comedy angels with a crazy message. Then I apologized later. He was a good sport about it. The whole thing feels so mystical and magical, like I am a kid finding her way onstage for the first time with her creepy doll. Sure some of my hard earned dreams have come true, but in that quest it becomes more about your ego and less about the art. The passion is back. Goddamn it, I want to make people laugh.

Luckily I am not stuck on some idiot guy. More to come.

I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl

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