“And I’ll tell ya, things aren’t quite the same.” – Lou Reed
There were people coming in and out of the Yippie, which felt unusual and good, but then comedians began to appear one by one. The first to show his face was Savoy. I had been seeing him a lot this week and that was wonderful, because we had known each other for years. Savoy had been hosting a version of his show Drunken Focus Group at Limerick House, a venue I affectionately call The Lime, for close to five years. Since I’d known him he’d probably as many different phone sales jobs during the day. He’d been present and active during Occupy Wall Street and was arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge which prompted him to get a tattoo that says 99%.
“I know those same clothes from yesterday,” he said slapping his hand on my shoulder.
“This hoodie is my trademark,” I replied. I had packed a Jansport backpack stuffed with clothing for my ten day trip as well as wore a red flannel hoodie and a green vest. Pockets are practical. I got in town on Friday and had brunch with my sister, Aly, on Sunday. She gave me a spare key and I’ve been sleeping on her futon in Harlem all week. Aly got me the hoodie one Chanukah and the vest was given to me by my old boss when he was cleaning out his closet. Savoy and I sat at the high table discussing The Yippie Museum and how much the renovations changed the vibe of the environment. A lot of that had to do with Murdock.
“You know he’s living upstairs now?” Savoy asked. I did not know that. At that moment I was never more jealous of a New Yorker’s apartment.
Figuring I should eat something before the drugs take serious effect and make me go hungry I decided to venture out west on Bleecker Street to find dinner. I was thinking of how good the Two Boots pizza was a week ago Friday. I’d headlined Karma Lounge which was one block west of the Two Boots next to the new UCBeast. The Two Boots closest to The Yippie Museum was over two full blocks away though and probably a long wait. I wanted no part of that nonsense as I thought I would be enjoying my own personal entertainment any minute now. In the village market that is Bleecker by the Broadway/Lafayette 6 train entrance I saw my the old stand-by, the halal cart. I ordered a gyro and pronounced it the correct way to a vendor for the first time in my life. The cart was on the northwest corner of Bleecker and Lafayette and it was now actually dark out. Not all the way, but on this beautiful New York City evening we were already considering it to be night out. The feelings of fun were beginning to poke through my system as I waited and I looked down Lafayette towards Houston and REI’s headquarters. It was a nice night out in the middle of a nice week. We were all agreed.
I brought the halal food back to The Yippie Museum eating slices with the fork on the walk back down Bleecker. Once I got inside I had nowhere to leak my gyro juice and it wound up spilling all over my pants. These pants were hand-me-downs from Jose, a co-worker at the warehouse in Sunnyside, Queens. The crotch had been ripping out, but earlier today I had sewn them up at Aly’s and took them out for a spin. Apparently they would be one and done. I’ll do the laundry at my sister, Robin’s, on Friday or Saturday.
“Oh, Grubie,” mocked Savoy. I wiped at the grease with the napkins that came with the gyro and had stored in my pocket for just such an occasion. It dried up the drink, but the stain would remain. A simple gyro stain was not going to affect my night. I gave no fucks. “See, this is why we can’t take you anywhere,” was his next rib.
My old pal Cordova was the next comic I noticed enter. He was booked on the show Future Girlfriend that was going to be held downstairs in the black box basement. He looked all over the venue and I could tell he was impressed by the difference from when he was coming to my open mic night, Venzday Alex.
“Woah, it’s so different,” Cordova noted. “I haven’t been here since your open mic.”ORION 0.62
Since Cordova was a booked comedian on Future Girlfriend Savoy and I decided to follow him downstairs to see if the show’s hosts had started setting things up.
The three of us went into the basement and sat on the couch perpendicular to the unused bar. More comics came in; Zaret, Vatterott, Bergstrom, Furback, and the show’s producers Seigel and Blotnick. The mushrooms were really taking effect and I would often say things like “oh man,” or “this is it” while we chatted conversationally on the couch. Siegel and Blotnick’s audience arrived and sat in the thirty chairs provided. Sipping my team and feeling funny with my secret I kept asking Zaret, Savoy and Cordova on the couch if they wanted some tea in a creepy voice. None of them took me up on it. Apparently Cordova doesn’t even drink tea. What a weirdo.
They started the show and I stood up so more audience members could sit down. Blotnick hosted and the first comedian up was Bergstrom. He left halfway through the show and I asked who the girl was he’d been talking to.
“She’s writing an article about me, but she got here after the set,” he said, a little bummed or annoyed. I couldn’t tell. Savoy and Furback left after awhile to go to other shows. Furback and I had a long, serious, helpful conversation the night before at The Creek and The Cave, but we didn’t speak while at The Yippie Museum tonight. Comics were doing great and the crowd was having fun. Blotnick’s friend was DJing with an iPod which had a pleasant appeal in such an odd venue. Gondelman was running late from another show and while Cordoba was on stage it became apparent I may end up doing a guest spot. I had never met Blotnick, but both her and Siegel were aware I used to host an open mic night at The Yippie Museum and Siegel saw me host The Dean’s List the day before at The Creek and The Cave. I wrote down a set list of jokes structured mostly of a set I was preparing for a stand-up comedy competition. After Keifer, but before Vatterott, I was thrown up on stage for six minutes. Before it begins, on needles and pins, I tied my hoodie around my waist and rolled up the sleeves of my red Life is Good shirt. I was feeling loose. “Hello! Dani, you’re doing great. That’s what you’re doing. I love music! My favorite band is probably the Velvet Underground. Yeah, I think they’re gonna make it. Velvet Underground wrote the perfect Sunday song: ‘Sunday Morning.’ They also wrote the perfect Monday song: ‘Heroin.’ It’s a good tune. You got it?”
“No,” answered Dani.
“Sorry!” she said being cute.
“You know you’re in The Yippie Museum, right? He slept in this room – he probably did more than that. Eee! People call me a hippy all the time. I don’t think I’m a hippy. I don’t even think we should be labeling people, man. I hate getting called a hippy, because I know it’s not a compliment. I know everyone is just telling me to get my shit together, but there are plenty of hippies that got it together: Ben, Jerry, Trader Joe, uh, Al Gore, the Muppets, um, Jimi Hendrix’s estate, Cheech and Lewis Black. Cause Tommy Chong went to jail. Did you guys know that? Tommy Chong went to jail in 2004 for selling drug paraphernalia to children. Yeah, who knew that children were buying the Cheech & Chong movies. Good God. Lock him away for life, I say. And they got Tommy Chong because of the Patriot Act. That’s also true. They tapped his son’s business, because his father’s Tommy Chong and he’s obviously a criminal. That’s why they got him in 2004, not 1974. I always hated the Patriot Act, because of the rhetoric they would spout out about it. ‘Oh, if you’re not doing anything wrong then you’ve got nothing to worry about.’ Hey, I’m not doing anything wrong, but I am doing things that are illegal. Like I have seen every episode of Boardwalk Empire and I do not have HBO. Mmm, January 14th. Was that even the right day? I think it was the 18th. Whatever. You guys don’t even, you are like, ‘what are you talking about?’ I wish they would legalize marijuana, because I suck at rolling joints and it would be so nice to be able to buy a pack. It sucks that every time I want joints rolled I have to listen to some dude rant about how everything is gonna work out for him once he starts his Thundercats hotel. Terrible idea for a hotel. I smoke pot with my dad. Does anyone else do that? You know my dad? He rolls a good J, but he is always talking about this hotel he wants to build. Super annoying. You guys are probably like, ‘address the backpack.’ Okay. I actually live in Philadelphia right now where the streets are paved with shattered High Life bottles! I used to live here in New York City – in The Yippie Museum. I hosted an open mic upstairs. I don’t know if you guys know what open mics are, but an open mic is kind of like a talent show only in the kitchen of a burrito bar. And, uh, I live in Philly now, because I go to college there. I go to Temple University. Uh, which is cool. I dropped out – did you, when did you drop out?”
“IQ84. That’s the only time that’ll get a laugh. I say it every show, don’t get me wrong. He’s a plant, this guy. You remember how he said he smoked pot with my dad? Anyway. I’m actually an English major at Temple University and I’ve always been that kind of student. Like I’m so bad at math. I remember going to math classes when I was a really little kid in Massachusetts public schools and, uh, my teacher would give me like word problems and I wouldn’t even understand they were math. I would just read them like they were stories. ‘Oh. Alice has five apples! Alice gives two apples to Bobby. How many apples does Alice have now?’ And I would be like, ‘How many apples do any of us have? What do apples represent? I bet it’s love.’ That’s what I think. I think they’ve got it upstairs. Do you guys get me! You want me to tell it again? All right, now. Does anybody know any closers? All right, guys. Do you want something dirty or cute?”
“All right, okay. You can never do that, because everyone’s always going to yell out dirty. Let me tell you about the first job I ever had. I consider this a job, by the way. Being a comedian is like being self-unemployed. It is- it can be rough. First job I ever had was at a place called American Video, so American that it went out of business. If you’ve never worked at a video store before, you never will. That is a lost trade. That is like being an alchemist or something. It’s too bad too, because that was the best job in the world. There was only one rule: do not laugh in anyone’s face when they rent a porno. Hardest rule in the world to follow. I laughed so hard I will never forget the first porno I ever rented to somebody. It was Booty Duty 3. If I wrote that movie the first scene would’ve been a police chief leaning on a desk yelling at a detective, ‘Johnson, you’re on booty duty. Now don’t let what happened the last two times happen again!’ So many good titles at American Video: Face Jam, Santorum gets Sandusky Laid Off. Yeah, you’re going to want to google it for later. My favorite title had to be Crack Attack. Oh come on guys! Crack attack is what happens when there’s no one on booty duty. Thank you guys very much. I’m Alex Grubard.”
As I was walking off I saw Gondelmon had made it in time and he went up right after me. After the set I felt amazing and probably thanked Siegel and Blotnick 2,000 times each for putting me on stage. “Yeah, no problem,” said Blotnick. She even assured me, “I mean, I had never seen you before, but you killed.” Vatterott closed the show strong with his original brand of bits. He had been in Boston the weekend before taping a set for Comedy Central’s The Half Hour. Living in Philly now I don’t get to see as many cool, rising stars prepare for a TV show as I used to while living in Brooklyn. Not to mention more of my friends are taping things this year and last year than ever before. Just a side-effect of knowing the amazing young comics and other people starting to take notice of them also.
On top of Hannigan’s rooftop I remember her saying in a conversation about America standing out in the rest of the world, “We are lucky to be born here.” Our country is too responsible for the globe, figuratively and blamed.
Back upstairs after the show people started to file up and stand awkwardly by the bathroom door as Occupational Hazards had already began and people couldn’t exit without walking right in front of the performers. Murdock had repositioned the stage from where I had always known it to be, by the stairs heading to the basement, to right next to the coffee counter. It made a lot of sense to put the stage there as now the venue was wider than it is deep as opposed to deep and long. While audience members from Future Girlfriend all waited for a proper time to walk past the upstairs stage and leave to go somewhere with more yuppies than yippies.
A young man who must have been a friend of Blotnick’s asked me, “Was that American Video in Concord, Massachusetts?”
“Yeah,” I screamed enthusiastically. “I’m Alex.”
He chuckled and said, “I knew there couldn’t be many of those.” Then he walked away.