Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Last night I performed stand up at a place called "COZ" in the lower east side. Tightly snuggled in between the oh-so popular "Industry" and the chic, fashionable eatery, "Cafe", Coz's well-deserved traffic gets scoffed away by it's two neighboring hot spots. Upstairs is a big snaking bar that no one ever seems to be sitting at, and then downstairs, a rec room set up with mismatched chairs, tables in wood and metal, and trippy art work. The light is dim and unforgiving, the audience is generally sparse and a little drunk, the walls are laced with strips of color and fabric in confusing synchronicity. In other words, this is the PERFECT place for a comedy show to go down.

If you've never been to a comedy show in New York City, realize, there are two kinds. The shows that take place at the big clubs - Caroline's, The Comedy Cellar, Stand Up New York - these clubs showcase up and coming tv comedians. These young charmers are bright, witty, attractive comedians with some half-assed credits and possibly, sit-com potential. Eyes full of hope. All that shit. Maybe Jerry Seinfeld will pop in? Or maybe Tony Rock, Chris Rock's brother! Or maybe the show will consist of 'regular' comedians who have somehow managed to get 'into' the club by doing favors for the management, handing out flyers on the street, or just hanging around long enough for the booker to hear them say something clever more than once and realize, they aren't going to go away any time soon. These people are in it to win it.

Then there are the other kind of show, type B, let's call them. These shows take place in basements, in rec rooms, in bars, in the buffet rooms in the back of restaurants, in the large unused utility closet at the neighborhood event center, and just about anywhere else you can set up a mic stand. The spots are run by comedians who don't have the energy, wherewithall, juice to be persistent with the club bookers. Or maybe they do work at a club, a few clubs, even, and also just want to run a 'room of their own.'

This is Coz.

The line up tonight consists of 9 or 10 comedians, of which I am one. Also on the list are Nick Kroll, member of Improv Group "Littleman," Roger Hailes, who helps to coordinate and hosts the Monday Night "Bringer Show" at the Boston Comedy Club in the West Village and also writes for the MTV show, "I Bet You Will," Liz Laufer who has studied Meisner with Joanna Beckson, performs in every show she can get herself involved with, and waitresses part-time at Ruby Foo's, Allegra Barnett, who used to go to clown school with MTV's Jackass and traveled with the circus. There are at least 8 others who I can't remember, I don't care to mention, or I refuse to acknowledge as comedians. The host is Alan Corey, a good friend of mine who has been doing comedy for somewhere in between one and two years. He is a tall, skinny man with a pronounced adam's apple. "I saved a girl from being raped last night," he told the bored audience, 75% comedians. "I convinced her to say yes." That joke always makes me laugh.

I decide to try something new tonight. I want to talk about how I got attacked by a crazy person last Friday. (See "Attacked In My Car," two blog entries down.) Alan calls me to the stage and I begin - "This has been a hard week for me." No one seems sympathetic. "I got fired from my nanny job on Thursday." True story. "I deserved it. I was sticking cotton balls in the kid's mouths when they cried." Pause. Chuckle. Someone's chair squeaked. "And they weren't even sanitary." Ho, hum. Next? "So, I got attacked in my car last week." True story, again. "This guy smashed my window out and hit me in the face." Should we believe her? After all she 'is' a 'comedian.' "I was shocked, because I've never been hit in the face before by a man I wasn't dating." Oh, Jesus. Should we laugh? Is she serious? The poor girl. I continue on, fearlessly. "I called 911, and I might as well have been calling Pizza Hut." Responding.....wait, I heard laughter! "They put me on hold. I'm dancing to the Bee Gees while the guy is getting away." Nothing. I didn't have much faith in that one, anyway. I switch gears to some old stand-bys, or "Delfino Favorites" as I like to call them. "I'm from Maine. Has anyone ever been to Maine?" EVERYONE has been to Maine. OK, not a typical response. I'm gonna go with the flow. "There's nothing to do in Maine. After school, we used to play spin the bottle, every day at my friend's house. And I hated playing because I'd never get to kiss the kid I wanted to kiss. I'd always end up having to kiss my best friend's dad." I am making these people sick. And I am enjoying it just a little too much.

I tell my remaining jokes all the while secretly praying for Alan to give me the signal to finish up. After what seems like 27 years, he comes through for me. I don't feel bad when I got off stage, I had some quippy 'sides,' an unplanned call back or two, and I tried out new material about something important to me. Over all, it was pretty successful. The audience is mattering less and less to me as I get more involved in this crazy business.

The next few comedians go up and have a similar go of things. A laugh here, silence there. I'm in the back laughing heartily at my friends' momentary failures and successes. But I'm not laughing with evil intentions. One rule I've picked up along the way, is, if you can make a comedian laugh, you're doing all right.

Someone told me once, "Don't hate the audience. They are here to laugh. Make them laugh. That's your job." Someone else told me, "The audience is a bunch of filthy animals. Treat them like they're animals." I like to think I'm doing a little bit of both. Who knows if I'm doing it the right way? That's the beautiful thing about this business. You don't think about it too much. It's like Wiley Coyote walking across a cloud. Everything is fine until you look down. So I learned not to look down.

Walking out, two of my friends, both comedians, were having a conversation. One said to the other, "I think I'm funnier, but you're doing art."

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