Comedy on “Shutter Island” and Long Island

Yesterday my schedule appeared to be a typical day in the life of a stand up comedian.  I started the day off splitting a pair of games with the Tampa Bay Rays in MLB The Show 10 on PS3 and finished up some comedy sketches I’ve been writing.  Then I headed to Roosevelt Island to perform comedy at a hospital and lastly to Long Island for a club audition.  It would not be typical.

Now the gig paid $30 and like prostitutes, comedians will often perform anywhere where payment  is involved, no matter how emotionally or physically painful.  It was offered to me by Brian McGuiness, who was going to host the show.  The show was to be one hour long and each comic would do 20 minutes (the third 20 minutes was to be provided by Joe Pontillo).   When you arrive on Roosevelt Island on the F train you are greeted by a man who is lying on a cot who has only a torso (unknown is it waist down or cock down, but in any case it is rather impressive).

They were warned.

When I met the other two comics we drove to the hospital, the name which escapes me, but what Joe Pontillo referred to as “Shutter Island.”  Whatever ward or wing of the hospital we were performing in seemed to only include people with severe phyiscal disabilities, coupled with slight mental disabilities and all exceeding 60 years of age.  In other words, my prime demographic.

Now I know I am supposed to feel good about bringing laughter and joy to people who do not always get entertainment, but it just did not feel that good.  Intellectually I know they probably liked to have the monotony of the day broken up by an activity, but the comedy aspect of the show was brutal.   McGuiness got up there first and got some tepid laughter and a couple of boos from patients who could barely speak.  I was unsure if it was light-hearted or if the people booing would prefer the sweet embrace of death to McGuiness’ humor.

Visually it was like performing in a Civil War infirmary.

Next was Joe Pontillo who actually had a pretty good set.  I hesitate to say “killed,” because there is a 25% chance someone actually died during the show.

Then it was my turn.  Here are some highlights:

That was it – those were my highlights (not a misprint – there’s nothing there).  One of the most awkward sets of my life.  Not the worst, because at least a couple of staff members and one or two patients laughed a couple of times.  But I did not know what silence was before this set.  It was like the hatred of Medgar Evers College for me (the worst show) was replaced with indifference of Shutter Island. (here is the link to the write up 4 years ago after the Medgar Evers show –

So after the show on The Island of Dr. Moreau I was off to Governor’s on Long Island to audition for work.  The audience was pretty good, but there were a couple of issues with the crowd.  One was that several of the Long Islanders at the club were joke echos – a term I think I invented, meaning that they have to repeat every punchline they find funny for their table.  It is incredibly irritating if it goes on for an entire routine.  The other group were the Obama boo-ers, who felt the need to boo me vigorously before getting into my Obama routine – which is completely non-political and not going to be on Saturday Night Live 🙁   As I went into the Obama it actually felt sort of like the scene in Goodfellas when Joe Pesci is yelling at his girlfriend for overly praising Sammy Davis Jr.  “I get it he’s talented, why do you keep going on about it!”

But the good news is I got passed to get work at Governor’s and I never have to go Roosevelt Island ever again.