I had two shows in venues that are classier than the places I generally perform in. The first was Thursday at Tenjune, a New York City club and then at the Mohegan Sun Casino on Saturday. Considering the last couple of bar gigs I had, simply the fact that no death threats were involved was a major upgrade. Here’s the recap:
The gig at Tenjune, which I believe is an ancient term from the Far East that roughly translates to “douchey ‘brahs’ with loot and coke,” was actually organized by Williams College alumni to highlight the charity work of a couple of alums. I was the comedy interlude in between the open bar hour and the Tenjune gang rape known as “cash bar.” I was actually surprised to even get in to the club because I just thought these clubs took place entirely outside. My experience is that you show up with one or two friends, a large black man (these clubs do not seem to hire white bouncers because black men with freedom are the only thing known to effectively intimidate the merchants of arrogance known as investment bankers), looks at you, notices that you are not famous or accompanied by eight women and then says “nah.” Apparently these establishments do let people inside.
The event was from 8pm to 11pm so that the club could scrub out our liberal arts college nerdiness before the cool crowd showed up. I knew I was in a different league when I went to the bathroom. When I entered the bathroom there was, predictably, a West African man with an assortment of colognes and gums. He was on his cell phone and standing in front of a urinal. I said excuse me. He glanced at me and continued talking into his phone. I said excuse me again and he finally moved. I was impressed, “Man these clubs are so cool and exclusive, even their bathroom attendants are arrogant pieces of sh*t!” Maybe I was not on the list for the urinal. Or maybe he knew I was a comedian.
After catching up with a few friends I took to the stage aroun 915 and did 20 minutes. It went great. I was really happy with the set and even happier to have the club comp me a few drinks because when I actually paid for one I needed a bank loan. I am not saying it was too expensive, but when I asked one of the bouncers how much a bottle was for a table our of pure intellectual curiosity, he said “Your first born. And $550.”
An even cooler thing than being one-upped by a bathroom attendant happened after the set. I was talking to some younger alums and a woman from the Class of 2009 (every time someone mentioned a class after 2008 from college I unnecessarily did math in my head to wonder if it was even legal for me to speak to them – worrying signs of both old age and saying perverted things on a daily basis) asked me about my lawyering days (I mentioned being a lawyer in my set as sort of a “this is what can happen if you fu*k up a Williams education/scared straight” sort of message). I told her my first job out of law school was as an ADA in the Bronx. She said, “Oh my Dad worked in the Bronx.” As my slightly impaired mind started to piece it together I asked, “as what?” She said, “He’s a judge,” and before I could ask (my brain was digging through information 6 years old) she said Judge Barrett. Here is what transpired next:
Me: Holy sh*t!!!! He was the judge me and my bureau were in front of every day!
Judge B’s Daughter (JBD): Shut the fu*k up (if the Judge reads this she actually said “heck”)
Me: Judge STEVEN Barrett!
Both of us: Shrieking like teenage girls.
Me: Oh my God – I forgot – Judge Barrett was so nice to me and it was definitely because he told me in my first year that his daughter got into Williams and he was so happy. It had to be that because I was a shi*ty lawyer!
JBD: And I remember him speaking nicely of this ADA from Williams!
ME: This is awesome! (this may be why people of my ilk don’t get into clubs like this. No one has ever called anything close to this mundane as “awesome” in a shrine of coolness like Tenjune).
(Contrast this entire exchange with my set three days earlier where I nearly got into a fight to the death at a midtown pub – COMEDY!!!)
We spoke for a little bit more, basically in awe of this tremendous coincidence. Somehow I brought up Breaking Bad (I have an amazing array of avenues with which to introduce that show into conversation – example: Hey, did you see that Obama’s poll numbers are down? “Yeah, but you know what’s up – Breaking Bad’s ratings!”) and she informed me that Judge Barrett was a big fan of Breaking Bad. All I could think was, damn – if I was still an ADA in the Bronx, not only would I have health care paid for by NY, a steady salary,some pride and a mother who did not worry about me as much, but also ANOTHER thing besides Williams College for Judge Barrett and me to bond over. Then JBD told me that the Judge was also a fan of Hawaii Five-0 and the good feelings subsided.
So Tenjune went well and like they say the best things in life are free because I did not get paid a cent. But I was comped three gin and tonics, which according to Tenjune is a $458 value so I guess I made out like a bandit.
Saturday was a trip to Mohegan Sun (via Greyhound/Peter Pan bus lines in conjunction with my endorsement for Poverty) to open for Michael Winslow, also known as the sound guy from Police Academy. When I arrived to Mohegan Sun a woman at the casino said, “You look just like Dwayne The Rock Johnson.” I said, “Yeah I get that. And Adam Sandler” And then she howled with laughter. And I cried inside. Naturally no one would confuse me with either of those multi-millionaires at Mohegan Sun for a number of reasons. Ballers don’t arrive on Greyhound, don’t make their first meal at the casino a trip to Johnny Rockets and definitely don’t play $5 on the penny slot machine and call it a night.
I went to check in and was informed that I was to go to the VIP check in. I then asked them to send a reference letter to the bouncers at Tenjune to let them know that I am, in fact, a VIP. I went up to my room, wrote out my set and then soaked up the Mohegan Sun ambiance:
- I enjoy casinos. They are like the south. People are either bringing their A game physically or their F game. Not a lot of people putting in B+ effort. That is where I come in. My fashion line/taste could simply be called B-
- Asians dominate the casino! If you love Asians casinos are a great place (I don’t mean if you want to have sex with ironing board shaped Asian women because you “like” tiny, boyish figures i.e. you have not yet come to grips with your homosexuality). They are everywhere. And don’t take this negatively. It is just a fact. Which I guess means if you really hate Asians, Mohegan Sun is also a great place because you get to see lots of Asians losing money.
- A Ben And Jerry’s open until 330 am – noted.
So I got to the Cabaret theater, which seemed like it held 400 or so people (much bigger than a comedy club of that same capacity, but the people are not herded together like slaves on a slave ship to maximize club profit). The crowd was full by showtime which was cool, but Michael Winslow was not there yet. He arrived at 915 but said the 6 credit introduction I was given to say when bringing him (only a two person show so I was an emcee/feature hybrid) was “too much.” So he accommodated me by typing up an 11 credit introduction with jokes for me to read before bringing him up. And he typed with only his index fingers. So as soon as it printed I ran out on stage with it like it was a Supreme Court order to stop the execution of Troy Davis (too soon?) and the show began.
I did my set and made only two mistakes. One was a momentum killing new jokes about halfway through the set. They were warmed up and I sabotaged myself. It was like DeNiro in Heat when he is about to escape with his girlfriend, but makes the fatal mistake of going after Waingro – success was right in front of me and I took it off course.
I got the crowd back pretty quickly though and then a few minutes later I got the 5 minute light. Then I made a decision that ruined my weekend. I opted to end with my Good WIll Hunting bit, which does well in clubs, but for a big theater-sized space was an iffy choice. It got laughs throughout, but the final line fell completely flat. And that was it. For that crowd my Obama closer was the obvious choice and I just didn’t do it. Part of me thought, maybe I will have time and part of me must have wanted to to take the risk (the House won per usual). I knew better and yet I closed with the wrong bit. I felt like the pitcher in this historic baseball game from 2001:
But unlike that scenario no one was clapping when I delivered my final pitch. They eventually clapped in recognition for the 26 minutes that we shared that were enjoyable but sometimes, like a sporting event, it does not matter how well you played the game if your final play loses the game.
Michael Winslow went up and crushed and I have to say, his sound effects are frighteningly good (it’s been a while since I saw Spaceballs or Police Academy). After the show some people went out of there way to tell me I was awesome which felt good. Perhaps they went to the bathroom for my last three minutes.
I ended the night how any comedian living free in a casino for a night would end – by walking around looking at machines and tables that would get me in trouble and then settling on an ice cream sundae from Ben and Jerry’s (at midnight, so my finding out that they close at 330 am was a little over-confident on my part). I sat alone on a bench while eating it and people-watched while people watched me. What I realized is that if you are a grown man with a bizarre look of comfort and confidence sitting alone on a bench in a casino eating ice cream people (esp women) will only give you two looks: 1) is that guy special needs? or 2) that guy is the coolest customer in this place. I got plenty of both.
So thanks to the Williams College alums at the show, the people with kind words after the Mohegan Sun gig and the Ben and Jerrys folks. They helped make yet another week of comedy a fun and interesting experience. Just kidding, comedy is still misery.
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