Thursday, May 12, 2011

Dances for Wolves

Throughout history sociologists have tried to find barometers, tell-tale signs for how a society is doing; signs to gauge if a society is thriving or in decline, fair or corrupt, free or oppressive. Some look at economic indicators. Others say look no further than how a society treats its women.

I say the above metrics will surely give tremendous insight but I would like to throw my indicator into the judging ring. I think a society is in big trouble when full-fledged adults have no choice but to do jobs previously reserved for teens and seniors. When your ex-boss is delivering newspapers, it probably means times are hard on the boulevard. Some 45 year old, ex middle management guy giving out smiley stickers at wal-mart, time to brush up on “Living off the Land” 101.

So I’m walking with my mom on Steinway street in Queens. (Big up to Astoria, my second favorite place in nyc after the entire borough of Brooklyn) and we spied a woman dancing. She was cutting cement in front of a cell phone store. My mom told me she’s there all the time, a local favorite.

We chatted her up and it turns out she’s on contract to dance in front of the Metro PCS store. I think she used the term “contract” extremely loosely. Metro PCS: Everyone in cities with Metro PCS knows about you! And people who don’t mind spotty coverage for $50 less a month than the big boys (myself included.) will surely get with you whether there’s a dancing lady out front or not.

You know they pay her a mere pittance to dance like Queens is not watching. A job that could be done by a teen or one of those air tube doll thingies that wiggles around when there’s a slight wind. So, the economics are off balance and now grown-ups are forced to do jobs that inanimate objects could do. Probably for the same money the inanimate object would make.

The Astoria dancing queen seemed quite happy with her work and her enthusiasm was definitely infectious. All that notwithstanding though where do we go from here?

Monday, May 02, 2011

Smell You Later

I videotape or audiotape about half of my comedy sets. I listen to or watch maybe half of those. So I review a quarter of my sets. A number that should be higher but between writing a blog per week and status updates I don’t get to critique the magic as much as I would like. I also don’t love hearing myself.

To improve however, one must honestly assess where they are to determine where they must go. So for ¼ of my sets I bite the bullet and listen to my own comedy. It’s actually never as bad as I thought…or as good as I thought.

While reviewing a set I did in El Paso I was treated to a golden nugget from a heckler in the crowd. I was asking where I should go hang out afterward. Apparently the place I was heading to was a known hang out for Cholos. (Mexican Gangsters) Some in the audience discouraged me from going there. A black audience member suggested another club. Apparently, that spot is a known hang out for…black gangsters.

I told them I felt I was in a pickle. It seemed I could get shot in either place. Then came the heckle of the century. I couldn’t it make out during the show but heard it on the playback. A boisterous but supportive audience member screamed out “No one’s going to shoot you Will Smith!”

Clearly there are a few ways to take this. I choose to focus on my universal appeal that the heckler was clearly alluding to. As far as he could tell my demeanor would make me okay in both places. He wasn’t taking a jab at my street cred as much as he was succinctly and hilariously stating that those gangsters probably wouldn’t be interested in messing with me because of my disarming nature. If only that heckler ran one of the networks.

The heckler, who seemed to know his way around a street or two, had basically given me a pass to run amuck in El Paso. A pass for Juarez, Mexico however, just over the boarder, is a different thing all together. (I ain’t that universal!) El Paso is said to be the safest city in the country*, while Juarez, Mexico, just over the border is one of the most dangerous cities in the world. There’s a thin line between “shoot the breeze” and “please don’t shoot.” I was on the good side of that line so maybe that heckler was right, universal appeal notwithstanding.

By the way, heckling at my shows is still frowned upon.