I sat in the chair, a bit uncomfortable in my super-tight vest. I had been really enjoying the day, up until the peanuts. Wifesy and I try to cram a lot of things into her days off. Today we hiked, worked out at the gym, watched a great movie on the creative experience of Jimmy Page, Jack White, and The Edge called, “It Might Get Loud”. That’s when we had the peanuts. I love salty peanuts, but sometimes after I eat them I feel like they’re ripping a hole right through me.
So, I sat in the chair a little bit uncomfortable, but happy nonetheless. Next to me was wifesy. I was enjoying the ambience of the cafe. It’s a small, family place where the waitress remembered me by face even though we hadn’t been there for well over a month AND this time I was wearing glasses. You just don’t get that everywhere – a little place where the waitress remembers your name and instantly you can feel the sense of urban family. Sure, these people aren’t related, but they’re bonded like they are blood. They lean on each other as if they are supposed to. You won’t find that kind of energy at an Olive Garden no matter how many free breadsticks they give you.
And so we sat there, sipping wine, and enjoying the family-ish vibe. The host started the show, as he usually does, by saying he was fired by his closest friend, from the very restaurant we were sitting in now. He went on to say that it was a “soft fire”. By “soft fire” his boss meant, “You’re fired, but can you come back in and work brunch on saturday…because you’re still my friend.” I love a place that will do something like that. It’s saying to a person, “You’ve moved beyond this restaurant. Customer care is no longer your thing because you’re thinking too much about your creative career or your sick mom or whatever it might be. But, if you need some money, we’re here too. Come back in and work for us. Because you might not be right for this place, or for this type of work, right now, but we still like YOU. We still CARE about you.”
The waitress brought our food, which was good, but I picked at slowly because of the peanuts and my tight vest. Wifesy sopped it up, always leaving a bite or two for me at the end. Two friends of mine walked through the door and I was very happy to see them. I hadn’t seen them since well before the move and we’d been peppering each other with a bunch of “we should meet up” type phrases on each of our respective facebook walls. Without telling me, they read a post of mine and came down to the show, just to hang out. They’re a really intelligent, funny, couple both of them with their own angst and yet at the same time they enjoy life – that’s inferring a lot about these friends, but I’m pretty convinced it’s true. They wear their joy on their faces and in their skin and that just makes it nice to be around them.
The host talked about riding an LA bus because he doesn’t have a car and how horrible it was. The sweet waitress who recognized me at the door, came over to grab a plate off our table and said, “It’s true about the LA buses. They’re horrible.” To which I said, “Oh man, the New York buses are bad, I can only imagine the LA buses.” And she responded with…
“Oh, the LA buses are much worse. The NY buses have air conditioning and are filled with jews.”
I nearly fell out laughing. After an hour or so, it was my turn to take the stage, which consisted of the floor area, behind a mic, in front of the first table. I tried to adjust the tightness of my vest and straighten out the back, which was rolling up like a window shade on a looney tunes episode. I started talking about the waitress and the comfort she found in knowing that “in NY, there were jews on the bus, riding with you” and it was fun and everyone laughed. A couple in the front, the woman – very pretty and big-breasted in a natural way – and the boy – in jeans and super-white sneakers as if he just got off the boat from poland and was trying to impress a girl – chatted up a storm. The boy was trying to land the girl in the way boys have tried to land girls since the beginning of time. I yelled at them, in a way that performers have been chastising audiences since the beginning of time. However, my yelling, at this point, has the glow of a delicately polished art form to it and so no one gets offended. Just the opposite everyone gets juiced and unified through it. It’s a catharsis – like a really open voice would be for a singer. One of those singers who I call wailers – where you can hear their voice not just in the room, but across the seas. You know that type of voice, you can feel it in your shins, and if you’re open to it, in your soul. A comedian who knows how to yell correctly can do that. It’s not something you can teach. It’s a “by feel” type of thing. What starts off as an assault finishes with a unified release and no one gets hurt. Just the opposite, in fact, it wakes you up like jumping into the freezing ocean, naked, in the middle of winter. It takes many, many years to do this well. I’m not saying that I’m the best at my game by any means. I still have a lot to learn, but this I have down. This, I’m proud of. I think it’s important this kind of yelly communication. It’s like the Italian family from “Moonstruck” – so loud, so yelly, so passionate – so, SO, funny. It scares a small minority of people, but I have the sense those are the types of people I wouldn’t want around me at a family dinner or any where else for that matter. To me, that minority is a very small loss and a risk that I’m willing to take. One of the best things in life you can learn is that not everyone has to like you or what you do – only the people that matter – to YOU.
I sat back down and finished the rest of the night with my friends and wifesy. The host laughed harder at each act than anyone else. Like a good host does. He picked the acts and you’re damn right he likes each and every one of them for different reasons. He stood to my left and when we both liked something, I’d slap him on the shoulder, and we’d turn to each other and smile. It was good like that – like a sister hitting a brother and belly laughing at the table at some silly aunt or relative or at nothing in particular. It doesn’t matter, it’s just fun, and real, and connected, and something else that Oprah or Eckhart Tolle might utter, but I won’t dare.
Stand-up comedy is like that for me – the family that I love and hate at the same time and will probably never get rid of. Thank god.
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