With all due respect to the many excellent clubs that I have performed at over the years, but this past weekend in Philadelphia was the best sustained comedy experience of my life. It was not a weekend without challenges, but never have I had more fun on stage than I did for the five shows at Helium Comedy Club from Thursday through Saturday.
Thursday – May 19th
Despite my plans to take Megabus down to Philly on Thursday afternoon I was still writing out my set for the show (I like to type out my entire set before a feature spot – both old jokes and newer ones as a way to beat them into my brain – plus in ensures I have most of my material archived on my computer). It was taking me longer than usual because I was putting in about 6 new minutes in that I felt good about. So instead I had to take New Jersey Transit to Trenton and then SEPTA to Philly.
Taking New Jersey Transit in the late afternoon from Penn Station reminds me of the scene of any Armageddon-style movie where the world is coming to an end and people begin acting like desperate animals only interested in self-preservation. I was actually pushed out of the way by a woman on her way to get a whole two people ahead of me in the mob going towards Gate 7 (as in she was standing behind me and just decided, “fuck this dude”). Now I will never hit a woman, which was exhibited many months ago when a young woman tried to trip me at Karma Lounge in NYC after I did some jokes she apparently did not approve of. Or, when last Winter a waitress at the Village Lantern pushed me in anger in the back because I was in her way on a narrow stairwell. But I would like to find some way to inspire fear in them (that apparently being 6’7″ and looking angry does not do) so that they at least think I might have OJ tendencies.
But I made it on safely to the NJ Transit train and managed to leave my camera tripod underneath my seat. So as I arrived in Philly, hating both myself and women (a wellspring of comedy brilliance) I got to Helium. Of course starring right at me is a giant picture of Myq Kaplan, that seemed to be staring at me saying, “Maybe if you had beaten me at Carolines or in Boston anytime since 2005 YOU’d have a poster in here instead of your name misspelled on a piece of paper outside.”
Well the first show went great. Philadelphia sports fans have a reputation as being, what is the term I am trying to think of… oh yeah… pieces of sh*t. Well, perhaps that anger, cruelty and intensity is exactly the perfect place for my humor because I have never felt more in sync with a crowd. It was like we were female roommates for the weekend. Part of that may also be because the headliner Steve Rannazzisi attracted a certain fan base because of his fantasy-sports comedy The League. And I should note that it was good to work with Steve. The man killed every show, so it was refreshing to see a comedian who had television celebrity, but still had stand up chops, instead of guys who are hogging stand up spots because of television success but cannot back it up (which I complain about every other week on this site). Well, here was one of the new bits I did the first night (I wrote it that morning so it felt good to know it might have legs). I think it tells you a lot about me and Philadelphia that the idea of giving AIDS to people who text in the middle of the sidewalk made us all so happy:
After the show I sold a couple of CDs and made my way home on NJ Transit without getting assault by any skanks.
Saturday – May 20th
I had been nervous all day that the shows would be cancelled on account of Rapture, but when it reached 8:00pm I realized we were all safe. First show was great and then for the second show I was greeted with a surprise. A good friend of Steve’s, a Philly based comic also named Steve, was in attendance with Pauly Shore. Philly Steve and Pauly had a gig on Thursday night and decided to stop by and watch the Friday late show. You can imagine my surprise. Having a healthy ego I immediately thought, “I wonder if Pauly has read my blog and knows that some people in Des Moines thought he sucked and that I think comedians working largely on name recognition are destroying the future of comedy?” Obviously he had not. Or unlike women on NJ Transit, he was afraid to confront me. After the show, which I performed hopped up and several gallons of Red Bull Vodkas, Pauly told me that he thought I was funny and then asked everyone in sight where the nearest strip club was because he “wanted to see pussy.” Speaking of vagina here is another new bit that did well with the Philly folk on Friday night:
I sadly informed Pauly that I already had a date with 18 unattractive vaginas on the 2:40 AM Megabus and would not be joining him. So working on little sleep I got on a packed Megabus where I had to sit sidesaddle for two hours because I literally cannot fit into the top deck Megabus seats. When you are as tall as I am it feels as if you are so not handicapped that you eventually have the same effect as being handicapped. Until you walk off the bus. Then you feel properly capped again.
Saturday May 21st
The final day began with another night of nearly no sleep (I do not have the gift of some of my friends to sleep 8-10 hours regardless of when they actually go to sleep – I always seem to wake up around 8 am). I touched up my set and sat around for 5 hours thinking about going to the gym. When I finally left myself no time to go to the gym I showered and headed down to Philly for the last night of gigs.
At this point I realized that commuting by Megabus at the odd hours I was, with almost no sleep, for a few days consecutively, was probably the equivalent of Navy Seal Training, if they had a comedy division. I think the 30 hour train ride I have scheduled coming back from New Orleans in September will be my Comedy Seal Team 6 training. “YOU WILL HAVE TO SIT NEXT TO OBESE PEOPLE IN TINY SEATS! YOU WILL BE SO TIRED YOU WILL START TO TWITCH AS IF YOU IN DRUG WITHDRAWAL!! THEN YOU WILL HAVE TO ENTERTAIN PEOPLE AGAIN AFTER GETTING ALMOST NO SLEEP! THEN JUST WHEN THE WHOLE PROCESS IS OVER YOU WILL BECOME DEPRESSED BECAUSE DESPITE ALL THE DRAWBACKS TO THE GIG IT MADE YOU MUCH HAPPIER THAN DOING OPEN MICS AND BAR SHOWS! ANY QUESTIONS?!”
The two shows went great Saturday night. In fact they went so well that I took Myq Kaplan’s poster and Rocky IV’d it like he was my personal Drago (despite the physical reversal of roles) (2:01 mark of the video, but the whole scene is awesome):
Ok, so I did not actually do that because I like Myq and destruction of property probably trumps “good sets” as the lasting memory for features when it comes to comedy clubs. But here are the last two clips (these from Saturday’s shows):
Nothing could have gone better under the circumstances (circumstances being travelling on Megabuses that were so hot and uncomfortable that I just assumed that the driver’s background was in human trafficking). After the show I went to a nearby bar and someone from Friday’s show was at the bar with friends. he immediately turned to his friends and said, “THIS WAS THE DUDE I WAS TELLING YOU ABOUT!” He started reciting a couple of jokes back to me and it felt really awesome. And then he said to his friend, while pointing at me, “Dude – this guy is right there with Aziz for me!” I think when he saw the confused look on my face (I love Parks and Recreation and Tom Haverford, but I have yet to dig Aziz’s stand up) he clarified and said, “‘Cause I saw Aziz a little while back and he is fu*king hilarious!” Phew, because he could have gone either way with that and I would have understood.
So I learned many things this week in Philly. One is that Philly is neck and neck with DC as my favorite places to perform. The second was that if I criticize a comedian on my blog it appears that I will either meet them or be compared to them. But seriously I thank Steve, Lawrence Mullaney the emcee, everyone at Helium and all the people that came out to the shows. It was the type of weekend that can give new energy to a cynical comedian to keep at it in this business. And one day that comedian will perform at Helium and it will make a world of difference. 🙂