Thursday, September 16, 2010
I recently completed a mini-tour of Europe; the Tell Your Friends concert film has been killing me, and I've needed a break. From the moment I went in search of funding for the movie to the moment I stepped on the Continental flight to Dublin, it had been a good year and change. From the moment I stepped off the Continental flight to the moment I sell, promote, and say au revoir to this film, it'll be another year, easy. And so I felt I deserved a good two week working vacation; I hesitate to call it "working," even, because I genuinely love performing my act in the places I went to.
Firstly, I did a weekend at the International Comedy Club in Dublin, Ireland - hands down, one of the best comedy clubs in the world to perform in. Then I did the English Comedy Night at the Kookaburra Comedy Club in Berlin - another one of my favorite places to perform. I really have to hand it to the show's proprietor, Kim Eustice; she has created a really great show, an English language comedy night, in a city where you wouldn't expect such a thing to flourish.
The first time I performed at Kim's gig, it wasn't an entirely full crowd, and half the crowd there were from school where people were learning English for the first time. I had a blast, but it was definitely a sharp learning curve; I had to speak slower, and extend the timing on all jokes by 100% so that the crowd could keep up. Then I came back a year later and the club was almost full. This time, the club was so full that there were people standing along the back. I have nothing but 100% respect for anyone who can create successful shows in unlikely places - believe me when I say, I know exactly how hard that is - and Kim has created something that is literally world-class. I can't wait to go back.
Also, there's a real English language American-style standup scene developing, and it was really interesting meeting these new comedians learning their craft in what can only be described as "under unusual conditions." Then again, I started in the Lower East Side "art star open mic" scene, so how much weirder could a foreign country where yours isn't the native language be?
I also spent a few days in Rome, just chilling. As soon as I get the cord that connects my camera to my computer I'll upload a shit ton of pictures. Because what do perfect strangers love more than some dude's vacation photos?
Anyway, that's not what this post is about. This post is about the fact that so much airplane time means so much time to read the books I've been wanting to read. Which include a couple that my friends have written that I wanted to tell y'all about.
First off, let's talk about Fish Out of Agua, by Michele Carlos. Michele and I are both veterans of the afore-mentioned mid-to-late '90s open mic scene, and whenever I see folks from those days do well, it's like seeing old army platoon buddy get success. Because we definitely saw some shit go down. A while ago, my sister was in town, and I genuinely had to apologize that I couldn't take her out at night to go partying in the LES. But the truth is, I did all that ten years ago, and in the scene I was in, you partied hard or you went home. To quote the great Winston Zeddmore: "Since I started this job, I have seen some shit that will turn you white."
Michele is now a great success in the NYC storytelling scene - something I never would have dreamed I'd live to see become a flourishing community - and she has been a Grand Slam Champion at the granddaddy of all NYC story-telling shows, The Moth. Believe me, storytelling is not an easy skill; I certainly don't possess it. To be honest, when it comes to performing, I feel most comfortable in the standup comedy format. Set-up/punch, set-up/punch. You string little pearls of punchlines together until they become a beautiful shining necklace of a bit that may be a story or may just be a grand observation. To me, to be good at getting up onstage and revealing a part of yourself honestly and engagingly is as intimidating as most people find just getting up onstage and performing.
And Michele has now collected a lot of her best stories into this book, a tale about growing up in Spanish Harlem, and about not fitting in, and about finding your own way. A lot of girls from El Barrio didn't end up hanging out at CBGB's or Hell in the '80s, watching Johnny Thunders and Television perform. But Michele found her own way. It's an engaging, funny book. And like every memoir that a friend has ever written (and I can't believe I'm in a position where i know multiple memoirists), it revealed a side of her that I'd never known about, even though I've known her for a long time.
Buy it here: http://www.amazon.com/Fish-Out-Agua-Neither-Subway/dp/0806531460/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1284646129&sr=8-1
Also, five of my friends have written a book called SEX: Our Bodies, Our Junk.. A parody of sex manuals, this is one of the best straight-ahead humor/parody books I've read in a while. I remember when these guys came to my Tell Your Friends! show and read some of the chapters in this book to the audience, I couldn't stop laughing. I mean, it helps that I'm a fan of these guys' work individually, but even if I had come into this book cold, I would have enjoyed it just as much.
It's clever, it's smart, it's witty, and it's profane, like much of the best comedy throughout recorded history. There's not too much more I can say here without quoting from - and ruining for you - this book, so let's just say it's worth the investment. And if you go to the Amazon page, you can get a sneak peek at the contents. So why not.
Buy it here: http://www.amazon.com/Sex-Our-Bodies-Junk/dp/0307592162/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1284646569&sr=1-1#reader_0307592162