Sets and The Cities

It has been a whirlwind of emotions over the last few days based on the shows I have had.  Surprisingly the emotions were both bad and good, which differs from my normal emotional responses to comedy of bad and worse.  I will start with the bad news, since that is how it happened chronologically.

Saturday night I was co-headlining a show at the Triad Theater in the west 70s of Manhattan.  Comedy crowds come in different bunches.  Sometimes you get hardened comedy fans.  Those are great crowds – they want good comedy and understand the medium and are not easily offended.  Then you have tourist-type crowds that generally want to hear the most basic comedy and are easily offended.  But then there is a third, wild-card crowd, that one can see in Manhattan, which is a crowd consisting of other comics’ friends.  Now if those friends are comedy savvy people then they tend to embrace all types of comedy.  In other cases, they are groups of people who are prepared to laugh at their friend, because their friend is mostly their only exposure to stand up comedy and everyone else to them ranges from unamusing (because you are not their friend) to shockingly inappropriate (because they think stand up comedy is what CBS comedies do).  Well guess which one I got Saturday night?

My initial material dealt with interracial porn and how we could never be a racism-free society as long as there were people in America that believe whites and blacks having sex together represents a taboo in keeping with some of the other more anatomically shameful porn genres.  I got nothing (obviously this concept was presented in more joke form and not as a graduate thesis).  The few laughs I got were from a few comics and a few people, but the mention of race and sex, even in a sanitized way, seemed to elicit a “We didn’t know a comedian was going to discuss race and sex! Well I never!”  So in what is becoming an increasingly annoying flaw in my stand up I took the uptight comedy stupidity of the majority of the crowd and looked at them with disdain the rest of the show.  I made sure to be harsher and more care free with my material, which actually won me about 12 of the 45 people in the crowd.  However, the remaining 33 seemed to genuinely hate me.  Which actually felt good.  They were only ruining one evening with their response: mine.  But I was ruining 33 evenings with my routine.

Say Goonigh to de bah guy Triad Theater!

Confirming the depth of the hatred some members of the crowd had for me was a story told to me by the date of a friend of mine in attendance.  After the show, she was in the bathroom and heard a woman say, “I liked the show, but I wanted to stab that last guy in the face.”

In case you are wondering, I was the “last guy.”

But redemption was only a few days away.  I had a private show for Comcast at Helium Comedy Club in Philadelphia last night.  I kept my set clean (not one curse in 45 minutes is the longest I have spoken, let alone performed, curse free since I  was 12 years old), I riffed about 20 minutes of political material that went over well and as of today no one has made an official complaint to my knowledge.  So it was good to wash away the bad taste of Saturday with a strong showing last night.  But the cherry on top was sharing a train ride home from Philadelphia with Samantha Jones a/k/a Kim Cattrall.

Who's that tall drink of beige hatred?

I am very well versed in Sex and the City.  An odd admission perhaps, but the same way Malcolm X was knowledgeable of the Bible, I felt it necessary to understand the white devil in my own fashion.  But let me tell you, my seething disdain for the culture that Sex and the City spawned (or at least greatly augmented) all but melted away when I saw Kim Cattrall.  I actually did not think it was her because she looked much younger than what I assumed her age was (dead).  But she had not one, but two personal assistants (gay man and hipster looking chick) with her so that settled it for me.  In all honesty it is pretty intimidating when you see a woman from television that you never found THAT attractive relatively to other women on television, but then you see them in person and it opens your eyes.  I felt the same way when I was in the same green room with Teri Polo (Greg Focker’s wife in Meet The Parents) several years ago.  All I could think was “If Greg Focker’s wife looks this good in person, then Macy Gray must be a fu*king knockout!”

Kim and I rode in the same car (we agreed that I could be on a first name basis with her), so hopefully everyone else in that train car realized the star power they were surrounded by.  And just in case I thought that Sex and the City was a horrible show for a generation of young women it was refreshing to see one of the show’s stars travelling the same way as the miserable King of Greyhound Comedy.  Hello gorgeous.


My Top HBO Characters of All Time

Being 2 discs away from finishing 6 Feet Under via Netflix I was thinking of how amazing the roster of HBO shows has been.  This also happened because I was watching Lost last night and thought, “Wow, this is supposed to be one of the best shows on Network television and it is basically a big budget mediocrity.”  Other than The West Wing and Arrested Development I don’t think I have seen anything on Network television to compare with HBO’s level of quality (all due respect to the CSI fans who adore that crappy franchise).  AMC is doing some good things (the slightly overrated Mad men and the very under-praised Breaking Bad), but HBO really is the cream of the crop (even though True Blood and Big Love, the two flagships shows at this point, are not close to the incredible things HBO produced last decade).  And I know that some people out there love Showtime, but having watched several episodes of Showtime shows they feel like a good junior varsity team to HBO’s state title winning varsity. 

So without any more explanations or caveats here are my top 13 HBO characters of all time (apologies in advance to the Crypt Keeper, the cast of Not Necessarily The News, everybody from Dream On (terrible) and The Larry Sanders Show (never saw it, but heard it was good stuff back in the day):

13) (tie) Dennis Hof – Cathouse and Lafayette – True Blood.  This is the only reality character on the list, but how can a guy who looks like Rush Limbaugh and acts like pre-wheelchair Larry Flynt not be on the list.  the Cathouse series, which follows a real life Nevada brothel features many women have sex, which is a relief because at least when you turn it on ou know what you are getting, as opposed to the HBO Real Sex series which could just as soon ambush you with a segment on nursing home gang bangs as they could with attractive women.  Dennis is the supreme scumbag that makes the show go with his array of women from the daddy issue-riddled, to the tranny looking one to the midget.  One thing is obvious – he has had sex with all of them.

Don't be fooled by her smile - he's definitely fu-king her.

Speaking to HBO’s diversity, Lafayette, the drug dealing, sassy gay black short-order cook/male prostitute on True Blood is only the first of two gay black men on this short list.

Hooker please.

12) Murray – Flight of the Conchords – The show’s first season was very good.  The second season was incredibly mediocre.  With all due respect to Jemaine – Murray was the extremely poor man’s Ari Gold on this show, literally.  Sadly, the actor that plays Murray is intent on beating the dead horse in a series of new commercials for some product where he is basically playing the same character, but with far fewer laughs.

Murray? Present.

11) Ralphie – The Sopranos. Sadly Ralphie only got two seasons on The Sopranos (3 & 4), but he won an Emmy for the second one and created a character hated above all in his first season and then, once accepted, became the funniest character on the show.  For me, his signature line will be after being confronted by Tony Soprano after beating to death a stripper carrying his child he simply yelled, “First of all she was a whoooour!”

Bad temper, good sense of humor - it's me!

10) Samantha – Sex and the City.  It would be hard, even for a misogynist, to leave off all characters from HBO’s third most popular show of all time. So I picked Samantha, who turned man-like sexual cravings into “empowerment” for women ages 17-60.  My favorite scene of hers may have been when she was dating Smith, a model who would be more likely to visit Samantha in the course of volunteer work at a nursing home than to actually bed her, and she runs into her ex-boyfriend Richard at a party. In front of Smith she goes upstairs with Richard and gets railed from behind and then comes down crying to Smith, saying “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”  Message? Empowerment.

That's the number of sexual partners Sam Jones established as meaning "empowered."

9) Lester Freamon – The Wire. The first of three characters from The Wire.  Quiet, unassuming and the best detective on the show.  My favorite moment, after coming up with evidence off of a soda can to potentially catch a cop shooter he is asked what unit he’s from. He replies with a straight face: “pawn shop.”  You have to watch the show to get that, but it was great.

The smart side of police work.

8) Tony Soprano – The Sopranos.  Nothing much needs to be said, except for the fact that he is only the second best character on the show (and no, the Bada Bing club is not #1).

Mommy issues.

7) Kenny Powers – Eastbound and Down.  Racist, stupid and angry. If he had not been a baseball player, he might have been leading a Tea Party movement.  Who knows if the shows subsequent season(s) will match the perfection of the first, but it takes a special character to make the line “I love you April, and not just in a make me come kind of way,” mean something, especially when said at an 8th grade dance.

Author of "I'm fu-king in and you're fu-king out!"

6) Al Swearengen – Deadwood. In a word? Cu*t.

Tony Soprano, if Tony did not have so much respect for women.

5) Ari Gold – Entourage.  This show is like watching the Cleveland Cavaliers play basketball a few years ago. It was LeBron James doing amazing things and four guys around him barely keeping up.  I thought after the first season they should have spun the show off and made it about Ari. They didn’t and now it’s a mediocre show with one dominating star.  But he still makes the show worth tuning in to each week that it’s on.

90% of all positive things on Entourage are a result of Ari Gold.

4) Omar – The Wire.  People reading this may have expected Omar at #1, but that would be too easy. I figured I’d sneak up on you like Kenard and… well, I don’t want to give away anything to the people who are just getting over their fear of Negros and Negro-filled shows, but Omar was the most entertaining character on the best show ever for sure, but he’s only my #2 from it.  Indeed.

If you thought he'd be #1 you were wrong.

3) Nate Fisher – Six Feet Under.  I don’t think any character on any HBO show (or any show for that matter – though Walter White on Breaking Bad is doing a nice job) has taken as varied an emotional journey as Nate Fisher.  At times he is both the most identifiable and the most polarizing figure on this unbelievable great show (Seriously, the fact that at one point HBO had The Sopranos, 6 Feet Under, The Wire all at the same time is like an NBA team having LeBron, Kobe and Kevin Durant at the same time – I think The West Wing would be Dwayane Wade for this analogy). 

Women would learn more by watching him than by watching Sex and the City (caveat - you may or may not like what you learn).

2) Tony Soprano’s Mom – Perhaps you forgot about her because she only made it on to the first two seasons of the show, but it says something that the show went from an A+ to an A without her.  The idea that a woman could be evil or just experiencing dementia, or possibly both was brilliant and gave Tony the best conflict on the show until he and his wife hit the skids in season 4.  Tony’s Mom was an absolutely brilliant character and played brilliantly.  Menacing and funny all at once. 

It's been a while, but don't forget how great/terrible Tony's Mom was.

1) Stringer Bell – The Wire.  I had a friend once tell me that she was going to see the movie Obsessed with that handsome black guy and Beyonce.  I replied that’s Stringer Bell from the Wire. She replied, i don’t even remember him from the Wire.  There are only two possibilities here and I will just propose the second – she missed the first 3 seasons of the Wire.  Omar got all the hype, McNulty got all the posters, but I found the intelligent criminal Cain to Avon Barksdale’s Abel the best HBO character of all time.  Watching Stringer try, but fail, to bring the Barksdale drug business into the legitimate world of Real Estate showed that the “legit” world is just as corrupt as the drug trade (as my brother told me – what is so different than the operation of Starbucks and the corner boys in The Wire – you give money and order to one person, then walk around to another area to pick up the product – he was kidding.  The difference is obvious – if coffee were made illegal a lot more white people would be killing each other than black folks on The Wire). 

On a side note, I was told a couple of years ago that the actor that played Stringer was a doorman at Caroline’s at night while he auditioned during the day.  More evidence that everyone in the comedy business except comics can make money. Congratulations Stringer Bell – you are #1.

Former doorman at Caroline's makes good.