Friday, October 29, 2004

The Price of Satisfaction

Woo hoo! After five months delay, I closed on my mortgage refinancing this morning. I had to go out to Brooklyn to meet with the lawyer, a guy, and the title insurance closer, a woman. Both were young and very attractive. Midway through the process (which involved me signing about a hundred documents in triplicate), they started chatting with each other:

Lawyer: "So do you work for Cullen & Dykman, or are you independent?"

Closer: "I'm independent."

Lawyer: "Oh, 'cuz I worked for them when I was in law school. Do you have to travel all over the place?"

Closer: "Well, I grew up in New York but never got to see most of it, so I like all the moving around..."

Me: "HELLO! I know you two want to do each other, but can we focus on ME here?!"

I am so happy to have this whole thing over with. It was supposed to happen back in June, but then the bank discovered they lost something called the Consolidation and Extension Documents. So for the last five months, I've been paying the old interest rate, which is considerably higher than the new interest rate. So I lost more than two thousand bucks waiting for them to get their act together.

When they were finally ready to close last week, the bank rep called me with all the details, and then she gave me an informal survey: "Would you recommend our services to your friends, family and colleagues?"

I was like, "Um, no."

And she was shocked: "Why not?"

"Well, you lost my paperwork and I lost tons of money."

"Well," she asks, "what would it take to make you satisfied with the service you received?"


I had three follow-up calls from bank people after that initial conversation -- each one deeply concerned that I was not satisfied with their services. And I told each one the same thing: "Show me the money."

I am happy to report that today I was issued a big, fat check at closing.

So let me just say to you all: If you ever need a mortgage, I highly recommend Independence Savings Bank. They leave you feeling very satisfied.

Come see me tonight at Pop Pops Comedy Show at Pacific Rim!!

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Something Old, Something New

No time for a full blog today, but I wanted to share my feelings about two works of art I've come across in the last 24 hours -- one of them brand new, the other (relatively) ancient:

Last night I saw "I ♥ Huckabees." I have been a huge fan of David O. Russell ever since "Flirting with Disaster," but I was hesitant to see this one because, for one thing, reviews were decidely mixed, and secondly, the plot sounded absurd: Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman as "existential detectives" who try to help their clients, among them Mark Wahlberg, Jason Schwartzman, Jude Law and Naomi Watts, discover the true meaning of life.

(The "Huckabees" in the title refers to a Wal-Mart-like discount chain that threatens to eat up every last open space in the world.)

"Huckabees" is the most thrilling entertainment I've experienced in years. Trying to explain the movie would be pointless; it's a complete and total mind-fuck that forces you to examine your entire life. The closest comparisons would be the Charlie Kaufman-penned "Being John Malkovich" and "Adaptation," but "Huckabees" deals with a much, much bigger picture. (Incidentally, if you hated those movies, stay away from this one.)

Lily Tomlin's performance, among those of a stellar cast, is the definition of commitment; she does not deliver a single false word or move. And Mark Wahlberg, always decent in the past, is mesmerizing. Expect Oscar nominations for both.

Plus, the film is really, really funny.

My second recommendation, particularly for those of you 35-and-under who may not already be familiar with it, is Genesis' 1974 masterpiece, "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway," which I discovered while downloading music yesterday.

I was three when the record came out, and while I certainly knew the title track, I had no prior experience with the full high concept prog-rock double album. Peter Gabriel sings lead vocals written by him (instead of wispy-haired drummer Phil Collins), and the orchestrations, by the band's other members, are extraordinary. Obviously, I know almost nothing about the album's history, but there's more info at the following link:


Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Rhea of Darkness

Last night I watched NBC's newest reality show entry, "The Biggest Loser." The concept is simple: fat people competing against one another to see who can lose the most weight. Caroline Rhea, of "Sabrina, The Teenage Witch" fame, plays host.

I was fully prepared to be horrified, but it's actually pretty decent, as far as reality shows go. The contestants are, for the most part, likable, and it's fun to see people undergo physical transformations that don't involve plastic surgery.

Of course, there is some fatsploitation going on as well. The contestants are regularly tempted with heaping amounts of the most delicious junk food you've ever seen: Mountains of maccaroni, barrels of bacon, carloads of cupcakes, etc. This, after starving themselves all week and being pushed to their physical limits by two trainers -- one, a kindhearted homo who uses warmth and encouragement to motivate his team, the other, a bitch from hell with rock-hard abs and a boot camp approach. (Her team looks like they could devour her at any moment.)

At the end of the week, each contestant is forced to strip down and weigh in. Whichever team lost the most cumulative weight wins. The losing team must vote off whomever they decide is their weakest link. (The Survivor-esque voting procedure is the show's most ridiculous feature: Contestants reveal their choices by lifting up silver serving domes. Tears ensue.)

My only real quarrel with the show lies in the performance of its host. Granted, Caroline Rhea was never the world's funniest comic. She was never even Canada's funniest comic. (Sample joke: "I love New York; it's the only city in the world where if you watch somebody long enough, they'll spit.") But here she seems to have lost any and all trace of humor. She just seems pissed, actually -- perhaps at her agent.

Whereas Rhea, a woman who herself has battled her weight, might be able to work some empathic humor into her interactions with the contestants, ("Man, I know what you guys are going through: I once found an ex-boyfriend in the folds of my stomach," etc.), she seems devoid of any human connection. Her directives are reminiscent of the serial killer in "Silence of the Lambs": "Now it weighs itself. Now it goes to the gym to meet its trainer. Now it rubs cookie dough on itself."

Even when the unfortunately-named Lizzeth was voted off last night and became paralyzed with grief, Rhea was like, "I'm sorry, Lizzeth. You need to pack your bags and go now."

I'm curious about the phenomenon of people who make their name in comedy and then become humorless later in their career. I'm thinking not only of Rhea, here, but also Vicki Lawrence, who was brilliant on the Carol Burnett show, barely tolerable on "Mama's Family," and downright dour on her own daytime talk show. Chevy Chase also comes to mind.

Is the business (if not the art) of comedy so emotionally and physically taxing that through the years one's comic impulses simply atrophy, wither away and die? Perhaps there's a lesson here for all of us...

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

No Class

I am ashamed to confess: I cut comedy class last night.

I wish I could offer some kick-ass reason for doing so: I was kidnapped by Scientologists and forced to service John Travolta; Mario Cantone got sick and the producers of his Broadway show called me to fill in at the last minute; I was shooting the pilot for Bravo's newest reality series, "Personal Injury Lawsuit for the Straight Guy."

Unfortunately, none of those happened. Instead, I fell asleep on the couch in front of "Seinfeld." When I woke up it was 8 o'clock. Then I thought, "Well, I can still make it for the last two hours of class," and began to rouse myself.

But then "The Swan" came on. And it was the season premiere.

I cannot defend my actions in any way. I can only point out that it's not easy working six days a week while simultaneously trying to launch a performing career. Sometimes one needs to simply disengage. "The Swan" is like heroin for me -- there's nothing, short of sleep, that asks less of me.

Lately, when I'm feeling overwhelmed, I have taken to writing my own "Entertainment Weekly" profile in my head:

"Before Sank's meteoric rise to stardom, he worked as a floor manager at Macy's, a bartender, a freelance writer, a Spanish tutor, a TV news producer and a desk assistant at The New York Times. He also worked off and on as a publicity assistant for Miramax films, prompting Harvey Weinstein to once ask him at a film premiere, 'Do you work for me? Then get me a diet coke.' Now Sank commands $20 million a picture and lives with his own stable of Chipendales dancers in a castle."

This tends to soothe me, until I am jolted by the very real possibility that right now is as good as it gets for me; that I am chasing windmills; that I'm no wittier or more clever than any other gay guy after two cocktails. That I shall spend the rest of my life working at dead-end jobs and waiting for the big break that never comes.

And then I think, yeah, maybe. But it's still better than working for Fox News.

In any case, I'll be back in class next Monday, Swan or no Swan.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Not Sweet!

Latest email from "Mom":

"I never loved you."

So after untold hours of wasted time and paper, I have solved one of the greatest mysteries of the universe: How to print using 8.5 x 5.5 (half-letter) stationery. All that's required is choosing "Landscape" in Page Setup and loading the paper sideways (that is, longways). Voila! Perfect! Yeah, I know you're all saying, "Duh!", but I didn't notice any of you coming up with that idea!

Now I'll be able to pump out those voice over CDs like gangbusters, and maybe I'll actually get some work one of these days. Incidentally, I played my demo last night for my family. They all seemed impressed, especially my 11-year-old nephew, Tyler, who began laughing hysterically the moment my voice came out of the speaker. Not really sure why; the first spot is a deadly-serious PSA for the United Way.

A cool thing happened over the weekend; an old high school friend of my friend Seth's googled his name, and found my Comedy Soapbox blog wherein I referenced him. This helps feed my deluded fantasy that I am actually becoming semi-famous! Now even my friends are google-able!

Sadly, when you google "Adam Sank," 95% of the hits are something along the lines of, "Adam sank to his knees in front of the older man as tears welled up in his eyes..." Nothing like kiddie porn to bolster a performer's career.

The past weekend was all work and (virtually) no play. One small bright spot was Friday night, when George came over and we watched Margaret Cho's new DVD, "Revolution." I realize Margaret's not everyone's cup of tea; straight guys, in particular, seem to hate her. But you have to admit she's the most gifted physical comic of her generation. Her face is like a clay mask; it can take on any character she's trying to convey and hold the expression through an entire monologue. Many of her bits are soundless; she'll just mime something for what seems like minutes on end. I can't imagine possessing the talent, let alone the confidence, to pull that off.

Regardless of your love for her brand of in-your-face, neo-feminist humor (or lack thereof), the DVD is worth the price solely for her bit about the time she was on a persimmon-only diet, driving down the Los Angeles, freeway, and she realized she was going to shit... RIGHT THERE, IN THE CAR. It goes on for 10 minutes. I have never ached from laughing so much in my life. Next on my rental list: the new Triumph the Insult Comic DVD.

Saturday I woke up early, made myself a cup of coffee, sat down at the computer and worked for 6 hours straight. (It was during this time that I discovered the printing solution.) You know when you're so productive that you actually start to feel a little crazy? Like you get up to go the bathroom, but on the way there you notice there's a coffee cup, a plate and a butter knife in the sink, so you stop and wash the dishes first before allowing yourself to urinate? And then on your way back from the bathroom you notice there's a pile of newspapers by the front door, so you take them down to the recycling room before returning to your computer? Then on the way down to the recycling room you notice there's people doing laundry, and you think, "Wow, I could do two loads of laundry in the time it will take me to finish these voice over letters"?

Anyone? No? Just me? OK.

Well after six hours of this manic activity I realized I needed to get to the gym or I really would go crazy. Had a good chest workout. Bought a huge salad at Pick-A-Bagel. Came home. Ate salad while watching Fox News twist the day's headlines. (Confession: I really love the show "Fox News Watch," especially the Hitlerian Cal Thomas, who's like a creepier version of Jeffrey Jones -- the principal in Ferris Bueller's day off who was busted for kiddie porn in real life. Wow, that's two references to kiddie porn in one blog. What's up with me?)

Scuttled off to Barrage, aka, Land of the Lost Souls, for my Saturday night shift. Sample customer #1: "I'd like a cosmo, but NOT SWEET!" Um, a cosmo consists of vodka, triple-sec (cloyingly sweet orange-flavored liquer), Rose's Lime Juice (green-colored sugar-water) and cranberry juice cocktail (red-colored sugar-water). "Yeah, but I don't want it SWEET!"

Sample customer #2: Middle-aged man buying a round of drinks for his table of five. Tips me $2. Friends notice his stinginess and each start handing me dollar bills. After the first two hand me the money, the original buyer slaps the hand of the third as he tries to tip me more as well. "No! That's too much!"

Sample customer #3: Two morbidly obese people of indeterminate gender napping under their coats in the back corner.

Needless to say, I didn't make a lot.

Slept until the glorious hour of 1PM on Sunday (awesome). Headed to Jersey for Dad's 69th and got to see some of my nephews and nieces in Halloween costumes. (They were headed to a party). Anna dressed 1-year-old Xander as Billy Idol, complete with spiked boots and a mohawk.

Xander just started walking, and he was unable to navigate the high heels of the boots, much to his father's delight.

Back at my apartment, I watched the tape of Saturday's SNL, with Ashlee Simpson's musical debacle. If you missed this classic show business moment, there's a good write-up on, I'll link the actual clip when I find it.

Happy Monday, kids.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Mom's Words of Inspiration

So I get this email from my mom:

"Dear Son, Your blog sucked today."

Nice! It turned out it was actually my crazy sister, Anna, using my mother's screen name. Had it actually been my mother, the email would have said something like,

"Dear Son, Your blog was most unfortunate today." She's sensitive that way.

But in truth, my blog HAS sucked latetly. I seem to have slid into a creative morass. Where once the words flowed like -- damn it, I can't even think of a decent simile -- now they don't.

I'm sure there's some deep underlying cause to all this (which my therapist will delight in explaining to me), but maybe I'm just tired. I work six days a week. I haven't had a real vacation in over a year. I have taken to wearing my neighbor's hand-me-downs in lieu of a wardrobe. The weather's getting cold. I'm tired of being single. Blah blah blah...

Yeah, there's a good way to make the blog more entertaining: bitch and complain!

OK, turning to the bright spots in my life:

** Fellow soapboxer Jason "Paging Dr. Bombay" Borbet booked me for the Pop Pops Show on October 29. (Details to follow on my site.)

** My nephew, Xander, is walking for the first time. (He's 12, but it's still an accomplishment.)

** The refinancing on my condo finally went through (after months of delays), and my closing is next week. The new interest rate is going to save me a bundle over the next five years.

** My father turns 69 on Monday. (Insert inappropriate joke here.)

** The latest Quinnipiac poll has Kerry leading Bush 51-46 among likely Pennsylvania voters.

**I still have some left-over arroz con pollo in the fridge.

Happy Weekend, Everyone.


P.S. I'll probably be at Rose's Turn bombing around midnight, if you happen to be in the West Village...

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

John Stewart Gets Serious

I'm fascinated by this whole John Stewart controversy. For those of you not following it, Stewart appeared as a guest on CNN's "Crossfire" last Friday, ostensibly to discuss the election and plug his book.

Instead, he ripped into hosts Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson, telling them their show "sucks" and is "hurting America."

(You can watch the entire 14-minute segment, complete with commercial breaks at scrolling down to "Oct 15" and clicking on this link: Crossfire-20041015-John_Stewart--compressed.wmv [36 MiB] (Coral))

The segment climaxes, so to speak, when Carlson says to Stewart, "You know, you're much funnier on your show than you are in real life."

To which Stewart replies, "And you're just as much of a dick in real life as you are on your show."

Stewart is deadly serious throughout. At one point, Carlson urges him, "Come on! Be funny!"

"I'm not your trained monkey," Stewart replies.

I have mixed feelings about this whole episode. I applaud Stewart, first of all, for having the balls to say what he truly thinks, an almost unheard of quality among showbiz types these days.

And I happen to agree with him: The 24-hour news industry has coarsened and dumbed down debate in an already dumbed-down society. (And I should know -- I used to produce it.) The concept of "balanced" news now amounts to two diametrically opposed pundits of dubious expertise making shrill, unchecked, and often unsubtaniated claims against each other's candidate. Nothing is resolved, nothing is learned. Fox News can certainly take credit for giving birth to this pitiful model, but not for the fact that CNN and MSNBC have followed suit.

On the other hand, Stewart, one the world's brightest guys on his feet, weirdly failed to back up his argument. He seemed content to just pummel Carlson and Begala with insults, thereby imitating the kind of meaningless discourse he, himself was trying denounce.

It was also discomforting to see Stewart so completely humorless. The Daily Show has surged in popularity this election year in large part because people can no longer tolerate the insanity that is our political process with a straight face. We look to Stewart to be our Mocker-in-Chief, shining a comedic (and therefore truthful) light on all the dissemination.

By losing his sense of humor (and, some would say, his cool), he became for a moment as suspect as the politicians and media types who are his regular targets.

We love you, John. Just don't stop being funny.


Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Comedy Class #2: The Comeback

Here's how pathetic I am: At the start of last night's comedy class, I volunteered to plug in the speaker and mic stand, move the chalkboard into place, and set up all the chairs -- just to impress Frank Santopadre, the instructor. I even jumped up on the piano at one point to turn on the air conditioner, so the room would be nice and cool.

It worked. Within minutes, I had Frank eating out of my hand, and the rest of the class hated me. Ah, such sweet memories of childhood...

The bulk of last night's class was spent focusing on one critical question in comedy: What are you trying to say? And then, tangentially, what's your point of view -- your attitude -- your essence?

We discussed this one topic for, oh, 70 minutes before Frank finally popped in a George Carlin video. It was from one of his HBO specials -- the one with the bit about how PC we've all become with language: Deaf people are "hearing impaired." Cripples are "differently abled." People never die, they "pass away." You've all seen it, I'm sure.

Afterwards we deconstructed the set for about 20 minutes: What was Carlin trying to say? What's his point of view? His attitude? His essence? Then the guy with A.D.D., who was sitting next to me, pointed out that we had not taken a break yet. I had noticed his foot vibrating more and more furiously as class wore on, and was frankly worried he was about to lose it. Fortunately, Frank granted a five-minute recess.

Back in session, Frank began to further discuss Carlin. What was Carlin trying to say? What's his point of view? etc. It was now 9PM. Nobody had gotten up to the mic yet. Plus, we knew we were also going to watch a Chris Rock bit. Suddenly filled with the same sense of urgency as my A.D.D.-afflicted classmate (I'm very empathic that way), I spoke up:

"Frank, we've taken a vote. We want you to pick things up. Put the Chris Rock tape in. And then let's start getting people up to do their new material."

A flicker of irritation passed over Frank's face. Shit -- all that furniture-moving for nothing. "OK," he said, shaking his head. "Point taken, but this is a fundamental concept you're going to need to get."

"We got it," I replied, sealing my doom.

We watched Rock. It was his whole "Robitussin/Jerry's Kids" thing. Tape ended. We discussed: What was Rock trying to say? (You know the rest by now.)

Then Frank lowered the boom: Nobody would be getting up tonight. Instead, we were to work on our material for next time, when we'd be performing for and critiqued by a special guest comedy writer.

An angry murmur swept through the class. What about the four people who didn't get to go up last week? What about our one minute we all prepared on the thing we fear most?

Frank suddenly seemed to understand what we were trying to say. Our point of view, if you will. He then called to the mic in succession the four people who hadn't gone last week: (Names escape me at the moment)

30-something Jewish girl from Westchester who likes to sing R & B and rap, has mother from Hell.

Middle-aged Latin guy, abused as a child.

Tall WASPy 20-something guy, comes from money, has commitment issues.

30-something Jewish girl No. 2, feels pressure to get married and have a baby (or doesn't -- a point of controversy).

The clock said 9:57. We all started gathering our things. "Adam Sank," said Frank.

Wha? But I DID go last week.

"Come on, Adam," he said. Aha; a challenge.

So I got up and did the one minute I had written that afternoon -- which was basically every bad thing that's happened to me in the last 12 months. No jokes -- just a laundry list, read in a rapid-fire run-on sentence.

They liked it. A lot more than Chinese roomates, anyway.

Class ended. Game 2, Sank.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Chilly Scenes of Winter

Friday night found me at a 30th birthday party for my great friend, Seth Gilmore. Seth is one of the finest human beings I know, and I write that will full knowledge that he won't ever read my blog (or any blog). Aside from being a tried and true friend, he got me my job at The Times, without which I would now be living with my parents.

The party was in the basement bar of Marseille restaurant on 9th Avenue, and it was a very cool spot, the nine-dollar cocktails notwithstanding.

I was a bit nervous about attending this event, as I knew it would comprise a number of people from my not-too-distant past -- some of whom I'd rather steer clear. I won't go into details here. Suffice it to say, they used to be my closest friends, and now they're not.

Anyway, to compensate for my anxiety, I made an agreement with my friend, George: Any time during the night I leaned over and whispered something in his ear, he was to laugh convulsively.

George more than rose to the occasion, repeatedly braying like a hyena and ad-libbing such sincere-sounding bons mots as, "Oh, Adam! MOST amusing!"

Afterwards a group of us headed up to Therapy (the bar, not the process) and continued toasting Seth until the wee hours. (Well, until 3AM anyway.)

Saturday afternoon I met my cousin, Robin, her husband, Ray, and their son, Matt, for margaritas at Arriba Arriba. I'm the youngest of all my cousins, and Robin's the second-oldest, so there's a 20-year age difference there. But she and her family have always been a blast to hang out with, and Saturday was no exception. A good time (and many margaritas) had by all.

Barrage was pretty quiet Saturday night. Made little, left early.

Sunday I did battle again with my printer and managed to mail out another five voiceover CDs. I've had two auditions so far, but still no work at this point. Must not lapse into feelings of despair and utter helplessness.

And then last night Seth and I went to a reading of Tony Kushner's hyper-political work in progress, "Only We Who Guard the Mystery Shall Be Unhappy," performed by Patricial Clarkson and John Cameron Mitchell (who took turns playing the role of Laura Bush), and "Third Rock From the Sun's" Kristen Johnston. (The New York Times printed an excerpt from the play on September 5th:

As political theater -- the first scene consists of the First Lady reading Dostoyevsky to dead Iraqi children -- it's powerful and fascinating stuff. As art, well, it's certainly no "Angels in America." But Clarkson and Mitchell are both truly gifted actors. They interpreted the role of Mrs. Bush in completely different ways, yet neither performer took cheap shots (even if the text did). They were both, in their own way, extremely sympathetic to the woman they were portraying.

Tonight is my second comedy class, and my assignment is to write one minute about my greatest fear. My greatest fear is actually returning to that class, so I'm thinking the whole thing will be very meta.


P.S. Honorable mentions to anyone who knows where the title of today's blog comes from (without googling).


Friday, October 15, 2004

Small Room Bomb, Big Room Boom

Let me set the stage:

It's Thursday night at the Gay & Lesbian Comedy Fest at Don't Tell Mama, in the back room. (Mama's has three performance rooms).

The audience consists of 3 Alaskan lesbians, four tables of gay male Manhattanites, the 10 performers, and six very drunk Texas businessmen, who had no idea they were walking into a gay comedy show.

Ron Poole, the producer and MC, is being his usual brilliant self. There's no better audience ad-libber, and he's creating great stuff on the spot as always.

It's a strong lineup. Sidney Myer sings "Maricon," one of his signature numbers, and the crowd goes wild. Erin Foley from Comedy Central does a hilarious bit about bringing her imaginary bull-dyke girlfriend home to Mom. Lisa Kaplan deadpans a list of possible scenarios that could happen to her and her diabetic mother: (Example: "Mom's leg needs to be amputated. Mom becomes incapacitated. Mom is no longer able to send me money. I have to support Mom financially. I move in with Mom and have to clean her house for her. I hurt my back cleaning her house. Both of us incapacitated. I shoot Mom and then myself. The End.") Trust me -- it sounds a helluva funnier that it reads.

I'm supposed to go next. Then Pooley decides, spur of the moment, that the Texas guys will leave if we don't get one straight performer up there pronto. So up goes Nancy Witter. Who KILLS. I mean KILLS -- whole room is screaming in laughter. Exit Witter.

Now the Texas guys are all riled up -- it's their show now. Pooley gets up and tries to introduce me three times and is interrupted each time by heckles from the Texans. By the time I get up there, the room has lost all cohesiveness. The Alaskan lesbians are on a bathroom break. The Texans are paying their bill. The gay boy tables have grown restless.

I bomb. Plain and simple.

More performers go up, show ends. I slink out to leave, passing through the main room as I go. It's packed -- every table filled -- and somebody is singing and playing the piano. Suddenly, the singer calls out, "Adam!"

Like my own personal Jesus, there is Michael Isaacs of Rose's Turn, filling in for Kenny, Mama's regular pianist. Sure enough, Michael calls me up to the mic, introducing me as "one of the best comics in New York." (He's prone to hyperbole.)

"Listen," I tell the crowd, "I just bombed really badly next door. I'm not even gonna try doing jokes with you people. I'm just gonna sing."

So I begin to sing, "Life in a Northern Town," and the crowd seems really into it. They're totally silent during the verses, and singing along at the choruses. So we get to the bridge and I say, "This is the part of the song where Michael Isaacs turns down the lights... " (giggles from the crowd)... "and I move a litle closer to him behind the piano..." (louder giggles)... "and he does lines of coke off my ass." (loud laughter now).
"And whatever falls in I get to keep." (CROWD EXPLODES!)

From there I launch into the very same jokes I bombed with an hour earlier. Only this time, I'm a hit. Same club. Same night. Same jokes. Different room.

I finish the song -- thunderous applause -- pats on the back and handshakes as I walk through the room toward the exit. I leave smiling.

God bless Michael Isaacs.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Mary, Mary -- Why Ya Buggin'?

Not a lot of time to blog on this rare day off; it's my one day to do errands, and plus I've got to prep for my show tonight at Don't Tell Mama. (Complete info available on

Worked another Wednesday shift at Barrage last night. The debate robbed us of our normal crowd, and it was very quiet. I walked with buttkiss, but at least I got out of there by 1:30AM.

Speaking of the debate, I wasn't able to watch it live, and can't bear the thought of watching my DVR recording. But I wanted to weigh in on this whole Kerry Lesbian Controversy.

Here's what the Senator actually said (according to the transcript), in response to Bob Schieffer's question about whether homosexuality is a choice:

"We're all God's children, Bob. And I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as."

Later that night, Lynne Cheney referred to Kerry's statement as a "cheap and tawdry political trick."

And then today, the Veep himself said of Kerry: "You saw a man who will do and say anything to get elected, and I am not just speaking as a father here, although I am a pretty angry father."

OK. As somebody who hopes and prays Kerry will win the election, I wish he hadn't said it, simply because he didn't need to. He could have made the point just as effectively without invoking Mary Cheney's name. And now he's opened himself up to attacks from the Republicans.

That said, as a gay man, I don't feel there's anything wrong with what Kerry said (aside from his appalling syntax). Mary Cheney is not just a lesbian who happens to be the Vice President's daughter. She is also working full-time, in a paid position, for the re-election of the Bush administration. That makes her a de facto representative of the campaign.

And while it is certainly her right to do and say whatever she wants, this administration backs writing discrimination against gay men and lesbians into the Constitution of the United States. And this year's Republican platform explicitly opposes even civil unions for gay Americans.

So I think it's more than fair to point out that the Vice President's own daughter is one of these people whose relationships allegedly threaten the sanctity of marriage. It's another case of Bush and Cheney having different standards for themselves and their families than they do for average Americans.

Secondly, Edwards made essentially the same comment in the VP debate, and Cheney's reaction was to thank him. I fail to understand how Dick and Lynne could be so outraged now. This smells like bullshit to me.

And may I just, for a moment, savor the irony of right-wing Republicans in high dudgeon over the fact that an issue has been made out of the sexual orientation of one of their own? Guess what, folks -- you're the ones who put it on the table. You're the party whose leader, at a time of war, terrorism, a skyrocketing deficit, a sagging economy, massive job losses, and millions being denied health care, decided that his number-one legislative priority was making sure two consenting adults of the same sex couldn't legalize their relationship.

I'm sorry if the Cheneys are offended. I can assure them they're not as offended as I am.

So much for a short blog today...

Come see me talk about NONE OF THIS heavy crap tonight at Don't Tell Mama!


Tuesday, October 12, 2004

(Butt)Head of the Class

Last night, for the first time, I went to a comedy class - - a Manhattan Comedy School course for intermediate comics taught by veteran comedy writer Frank Santopadre.

I have always been skeptical of such classes. There's the expense, for one thing. As you all well know, spending money to study something that will probably never make you money is an unwise proposition.

I also felt like there was a certain stigma attached to comedy classes. I remember the first time I performed at Ha!, Exiene, the one-named gay comic who haunts that club, offered me the following critique: "Well, it's OBVIOUS you've taken a comedy class." He didn't mean it as a compliment. And he was wrong!

Of course, months later, the New Yorker magazine referred to Exiene in its comedy issue as "pear-shaped," "calculating," and "hard," so who's laughing now?

Anyway, comedy just seemed like one of those things you couldn't teach, like good taste or good sex. But then it occurred to me that there's no such thing as wasted education. So maybe I wouldn't learn how to be a better comic, but surely I'd learn SOMETHING.

And yeah, OK: I thought it might make for some good material.

So I went. And it was cool. Sort of.

There are about 12 students in the class, of various ages, shapes, sizes and genders. They include Colin, an unspeakably handsome 24-year-old recovering alcoholic from Long Island (on whose stunning looks nobody -- male or female -- could refrain from commenting); Tashi, a British, Jewish, self-described slut with a holocaust-survivor grandmother and an obsession with Prada shoes; Joe, a fraternal twin with A.D.D, and Kevin, a 38-year-old who's been married three times, once for just six days.

So it's basically like any other 12-step group.

I missed the first class last week, where the assignment had been to come back this week with three minutes of material you consider 'taboo'-- material you had previously been too afraid to do.

Since I had nothing new prepared, I decided I'd do my Chinese roommates bit. For those of you who haven't seen it, it's the true story of my experience living in an all-Chinese dormitory suite in grad school. It's a long bit, and definitely my edgiest. (Sample joke: "These roommates spoke no English, and they were very hostile toward me. Like they wouldn't even do my laundry.")

Not groundbreaking, but sort of taboo, no?

So before I even did the bit, I got up to the mic and I went, "So how 'bout Christopher Reeve dying?!"

Stunned silence.

It got worse from there. The whole bit begins with my saying, "Look, this story may be politically incorrect, but before you go getting all offended, keep in mind that I am (and here I count out five fingers) gay, Jewish, left-handed, from New Jersey... and (pinky finger here) I have a small penis."

Crickets. Beautiful Colin looked like he needed a stiff drink. Slutty Tashi glared at me like a neglected housecat.

By the time I got to the finale, ("But in the showers, compared to the other guys, my penis -- not so small!") I was literally covered in flop-sweat. Silently I returned to my seat.

"Well," said Frank, the instructor, "I love your energy. And I love your confidence. You literally seem to have no inhibitions."

(Translation: "You are inappropriate to the point of being insane.")

He continued: "But you set us up to find out all these great things about you -- that you're gay, Jewish, left-handed, have a small penis, etc -- and then you don't talk about any of them. Instead, you focus on making fun of these Chinese roommates." He approached the blackboard. "Can anyone come up with some words to describe the way Adam came across in his set?"

"Control freak!", yelled some anonymous person from the back row.

"Racist!", offered another.

"Asshole!", I cried, jumping on the bandwagon.

"Yes!", agreed Frank, writing "CONTROL FREAK RACIST ASSHOLE" on the board. "Now we need to actually SEE those things about you in your material."

"Well, yes," I said, wiping the sweat from my eyes, "but keep in mind I don't usually open with this bit. My other material does show more about me..."

"Don't get defensive," said Frank. "We're just saying you're wasting an opportunity to tell us about you. And frankly, someone with your obvious intelligence shouldn't have to resort to imitating the way Chinese people talk."

That loud splat sound was my brains hitting the back wall. So much for taboo.

The upside of this brutal drubbing is this: So hungry am I for approval from my peers and from authority figures that I have vowed to blow them away next time with the most brilliant three minutes of my life. I mean, I'm going to make them laugh until they pee, so help me. I'm going to become the teacher's pet and the envy of my classmates. Then they'll see who's funny!

Maybe not the healthiest motivation, but hey -- it got me through 17 years of school, didn't it?

Sunday, October 10, 2004

When It Rains, It Pours

(Or: Maybe God Really Does Hate Homosexuals...)

Another crazy-busy night at Barrage. We have apparently become THE Hell's Kitchen late-night spot. This is not a bad thing; for three Saturday nights running I have walked with my own little pot of gold.

On the flip side, it's exhausting to be running around non-stop for so many hours. I've actually begun having dreams where I'm taking orders and bussing glassware. Every once in a while, I drop a glass and am suddenly jolted awake.

Anyway, I dragged myself through the front door around 4:30AM utterly spent and wanting nothing more than to fix myself a peanut butter and jelly, read my Entertainment Weekly, and fall into blissful slumber.

But first I had to pee.

I saw the water before I even got to the bathroom -- before even turning on the light. The tile floor was shiny, like the bottom of shallow fountain. I flung open the doors to the cabinet below the sink and (cut to extreme close-up and horror movie strings) there -- spurting hot water like some sort of ghetto geyser -- was the culprit: Another leak in the supply valve.

"What do you mean 'another leak,' Adam?"

Well, Constant Reader, this is not the first time. Less than six months ago, it was the cold water valve that had sprung a leak -- releasing torrents of water into my bathroom and the apartments of the three floors below me. On that occasion, I had been away, visiting my parents at their summer home on Long Island. Nobody could reach me, and nobody had a key to my apartment. By the time a 24-hour locksmith broke in with the superintendent in tow, major damage had been done to people's ceiling and property.

"But Adam, why is that your problem? Isn't the landlord responsible?"

Oh, sweet, naive Constant Reader: No. It's a condo. I bought it back when I had an actual career. I'm responsible for any pipes that are inside the walls, and for any damage incurred thereof.

Like the first time, last night's leak had struck in the middle of the night on a weekend -- the perfect time to call a plumber. Unable to stem the flow myself, I did call one -- a 24-hour service I found in the Yellow Pages.

The guy answering the phone sounded like a retarded caveman who had just awoken from a two-day nap.


"Please, I have an emergency! The water won't stop -- it's leaking down into other units. Please send someone immediately.

"Eh, duh guh be deh widdin un owa."

Shockingly, the guy was NOT there within an hour. I called back, frantic.

"Eh, du guh nuh cah mih bok. U wonnuh wet til tuhmaruh?"

In the meantime, some quick thinking and no doubt sopping tenant downstairs had had the good sense to cut the water supply to the entire building. Gradually, the leak stopped.

Sometime around 6, I finally drifted off...

Only to awake three hours later to the sound of my super pounding on the door. I let him in and went back to bed. When I got up at again around 2, the pipe had a new valve on it.

No word yet on the damage estimates, but I can only imagine they're in the hundreds of dollars.

"But Adam -- don't you have homeowner's insurance?"

Constant Reader, you really need to shut the fuck up. Yes, I have homeowner's insurance. But my cheap-ass policy is construed in such a way that unless the damage is a result of actual negligence on my part (like if I had left the faucet running), the insurance company isn't liable for damage to other people's property.

Meanwhile, the condominium rules explicitly state that I am liable for anything inside my unit that damages somebody else's unit.

So there you go.

At least I know how I'll be spending my tips.


Saturday, October 9, 2004

How I Spent My Saturday

(Or: My Most Boring Blog Entry EVER)

So I'm trying to get work doing voice overs. And my coach, Peter Rofe, instructed me on a very elaborate process for sending out my audio CDs, along with business card and cover letter, to producers, casting directors, etc.

Among his recommendations was to use personalized stationery on 8.5 x 5.5 paper, which is what you would have if you took a normal letter-sized sheet of paper, folded it in half, ripped it at the crease and turned it sideways. (You'd actually end up with two 8.5 x 5.5 sheets.)

Picture a sheet of paper that an 8-year-old girl would use for stationery -- "Hello Kitty" brand perhaps -- and you get some idea of how small it is.

Now Peter's right: This size of paper fits perfectly into a No. 12 JiffyLite cushioned mailer, which is what one uses to mail a CD. You don't have to fold it -- it slides right in.

Everyone still with me? Anyone? Anyone?

OK, here's the problem: Ever try printing something on an 8.5 x 5.5 sheet of paper? Let me answer that for you: No, you haven't. Because you can't. It's impossible.

After untold hours and over 25 sheets of wasted (read: expensive) stationery, I can confidently say, it can't be done.

Here's how desperate I got: I went online and actually did RESEARCH on paper sizes. I learned that the largest size, "C0," measures 36.1 x 51.0. I learned that the smallest size, "C8," measures 2.2 x 3.2. And you know what I learned about 8.5 x 5.5 size? It's like the unicorn of the paper industry. Of the hundreds of paper size sites I found, only one site even listed a name for such an oddity: "Half Letter." No alphabetical characters, no numerals -- just "Half Letter."

Well guess what? "Half Letter" is not an option offered by Microsoft Windows XP in the print menu.

So what I finally did (after adjusting and re-adjusting the Page Setup margins about 100 times) was to simple select the "Letter" size and adjust the little paper-guard thing on the printer just so.

Unfortunately, my printer seemed to regard each little piece of stationery as a delectable hors d'oeuvre. No matter how carefully I fed each sheet, the printer would end up chewing it up and spitting it out in a mangled, ink-marked mess.

My failure to success ratio was like 10 to 1. But ultimately, I ended up printing a total of five clean letters.

Hope you all enjoyed your Saturday as well.

Coming tomorrow: Night of the Living Labels.

Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Mail Bag

Will writes from Ft. Lauderdale:

"I'm honored to be featured on your web log. I just want you to know that anytime you mention me in it, I will be happy to read it. I always find stories about me very fascinating and overwhemingly stimulating."

Keith, my closest childhood friend and the nicest person I've ever known, writes from Raleigh-Durham:

"Strange memory popped into my mind last week...Do you remember when you called a girl either a vagina or pussy and she went and told the teacher? I did not know if that could somehow be worked into your comedy routine...where, I have no idea!!! Anyway, keep me laughing with the blogs..."

That Keith remembers this story, which happened literally 25 years ago, is astounding. But here's what actually happened:

Her name was Sabine Broussard, and she was from France. I didn't actually call her any of those names. (I wouldn't have known the word "pussy" in first grade.) What I said, to somebody else in the class, who then repeated it to Sabine, was "Sabine is what's between a lady's legs." I don't know what possessed me to say this. I was a nasty little kid.

When Sabine went to report me to Miss Ruane, she said (in a thickly French accent), "Adam call me a lady penis."

Miss Ruane was like, "WHAT?!"

So she repeated it: "Adam call me a lady penis."

Miss Ruane had no idea what the fuck she was talking about, and so she asked me if I had said anything to Sabine. I told her I hadn't (which, in fact, was TRUE! I said it to someone else!).
And so I never got in trouble. writes:

"Tired of people laughing at your silly little willy? Increase your pen*s size 3 inches, guaranteed!"

Wow. Bet you didn't think you'd read the phrases "lady penis" and "silly little willy" today, let alone in the same blog entry.

Hard to call a winner in last night's veep debate. Cheney seemed old, cranky and infirm; particularly disturbing were those liver spots on his head. Edwards seemed smarmy and scripted. And what was with the constant Bill Clintonesque thumb-over-fist thrusting? Highly distracting and ineffective.

Best Cheney Zinger: "Now, in my capacity as vice president, I am the president of Senate, the presiding officer. I'm up in the Senate most Tuesdays when they're in session. The first time I ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight."

Great line -- too bad it's a lie. The two candidates have met twice before. Why Edwards didn't correct him on the spot is beyond my comprehension. LATE UPDATE: IF ANYONE DOUBTS THAT CHENEY LIED, HERE'S PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE. CHECK OUT THIS LINK TO THE DAILY KOS BLOG:

Best Edwards Zinger: "While he was CEO of Halliburton, they paid millions of dollars in fines for providing false information on their company, just like Enron and Ken Lay. They did business with Libya and Iran, two sworn enemies of the United States. They're now under investigation for having bribed foreign officials during that period of time. Not only that, they've gotten a $7.5 billion no-bid contract in Iraq, and instead of part of their money being withheld, which is the way it's normally done, because they're under investigation, they've continued to get their money."

Meow! Unfortunately, it's also not completely accurate. As The New York Times reported today, the non-partisan GAO concluded that Halliburton was the only company that could have provided services the Army needed at the time. However I still maintain that's why the Bushies went to war in the first place.

Worst Cheney Blunder: When he made the following claim: "The senator has got his facts wrong. I have not suggested there's a connection between Iraq and 9/11..."

Excuse me? That's ALL you and Bush have done.

Worst Edwards Blunder: When he repeated the name "Johny Kerry" three times, after Gwen Ifill asked that neither candidate give the name of their running mate in response to the question of what separates the two men, Edwards and Cheney, themselves. He looked like an ass.

The conventional wisdom seems to be that the VP debate will not have an appreciable effect on the race; neither candidate swayed any undecided voters.

Frankly, I think they both came across like lady penises.


Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Bitter Pills

"I give you bitter pills, in sugar coating. The pills are harmless; the poison is in the sugar."

-- Stanislaw Lec

I am heartbroken over the complete and total lack of response to my blog-in-verse entry yesterday. Not only have I received no comments or emails, but my ratings continue to drop.

Clearly I have grown tiresome to people, like Lily Barth in "House of Mirth." I, too, shall now have to find work as a seamstress and die in obscurity in a bleak tenement, addicted to cough syrup.

All right, enough with the high falutin' literary references. Bottom line: I need attention and am getting NONE from you people.

So here's what happened the rest of my weekend:

Worked a busy shift at Barrage Saturday night and did well again. Nothing too exciting to report there except that somebody managed to break two glasses in two different areas of the bar simultaneously -- a first.

Also, we had a bizarre rush of people at 3AM, when we're usually dead. Who they were and where they came from remains a mystery, but they were mighty thirsty. Needless to say, I didn't get home until well after 4AM.

Woke up around noon on Sunday and welcomed Will, good friend and former fraternity brother from Ft. Lauderdale, into my home for a 24-hour visit. Sadly, Will won't read about himself in this space, because when I asked him if he ever read my blog, he replied, "What's a blog?"

Will was the impetus behind my coming out of the closet 13 years ago (for which he will always remain a favorite with my parents). He was the beefiest, butchest guy at our Michigan Chi Psi chapter and spent long hours working his body to perfection at the campus gym. Nobody could ever understand why he didn't have a girlfriend. We hated each other's guts.

So summer before my junior year I'm starting to "question" whether I "might" be "bisexual" and so forth. And a gay friend convinces me to go with him to Sauguatuck, a little resort town on Lake Michigan that turns very gay in the summer.

We walk into the Douglas Dunes, a tiny, tacky little gay bar, and the first person I see is Will. "What the fuck are you doing here?", he asks.

"Uh, I'm here with a friend," I stammer.

"Oh. You're not gay, are you?"

"Uh, I don't know, are you?"


And that sort of normalized the whole gay thing for me, and I realized that not all gay people are drag queens or the center square on "Hollywood Squares" (not that there's anything wrong with that). We've been close friends ever since.


Stupidly, I had forgotten Will was coming this weekend and had accepted a bartending job at a private birthday party Sunday night. It turned out to be a very nice affair, and an easy gig. As it was getting close to midnight, who should arrive at the party but none other than Jim J. Bullock! (And yes, I am aware he was once the center square, which is probably where I came up with that reference two paragraphs back.)

"UGH!", he groaned, sauntering up to the bar and asking me for a vodka and soda. "This is the third party I've been to tonight!"

He then proceeded to introduce himself and shake hands with every remaining guest at the party. Talk about Too Close for Comfort!

Got my cash, took off, and met Will and our mutual friend Luis at Park, a fun Sunday night hangout on 17th and 10th. Lots of boys, lots of cocktails. Very "Sex in the City," minus the women.

We left Park around 2AM and went to go check out some sleazy East Village dive bars. What we found is too frightening to be described in a family blog, but suffice it to say, stay away from Avenue A at 2AM on a Monday morning.

Got home around 3:30AM, crashed, woke up, said goodbye to Will, went to work at 2PM. Returned home, watched my DVR recording of Saturday Night Live with Ben Affleck hosting. HORRIBLE! Even the Debbie Downer sketch sucked.

Woke up, went to work, blah blah blah, and so forth.

Oh, and I got booked for Ron Poole's Gay & Lesbian Comedy Fest at Don't Tell Mama next Thursday, October 14th @ 8:30PM. Complete details on

ENOUGH! This may be my last blog entry ever if I don't get some sugar from you people. (And remember -- the poison's in the sugar.)

Monday, October 4, 2004

And to Think that I Saw it on Grove Street

And now, "My Weekend: A Poem"

To Roses's Turn Friday I hauled my tush/With new material about George W. Bush

"So witty," thought I about these jokes,/"I'll charm and entertain those folks."

With confidence I approached the mic/And set myself up for the spike:

"George Bush is like the kid in school/Who didn't do his homework and thinks it's cool."

(And here I affected a Texas drawl)/"You go study. I'll be at the mall."

But the crowd, they were so unimpressed/Expressing pity laughs, at best

My bit had clearly gone all wrong/So I quickly launched into a song.

The lesson from this piano bar:/Stay away from politics -- you're no Bill Maher.

To Duplex did I wander next/My pride and ego now in check

And gamely warbled another tune:/"Cats in the cradle and the silver spoon..."

"Nice singing," said an old drunk by the door/"What do you do for an encore?"

Taking this as a cue to go home/Up 7th Avenue I did roam

Then hopped into a passing cab/Driven by a friendly Sikh, Punjab

And finally home, I passed out cold/Seven gin and tonics, having taken their toll

{Writer's note: Ohmigod,this is taking fucking forever, and I'm only up to Saturday!! Have to start getting ready for work -- will finish the poem later based on popular demand. In other words: You want more? Let me know. --AJS}

Friday, October 1, 2004

Bush Wacked

A big night for Kerry fans, as the Massachusetts Senator FINALLY presents himself as a confident, intelligent, reasonable, utterly capable leader, while the President of the United States appears as an anxious, petulant, inarticulate, mean-spirited monkey. (I mean that literally -- he frequently looked in the debate like a chattering macaque. Here's a photo of one for the sake of comparison:

Halfway through, I turned to my friend, George, and asked, "Is Bush really doing that badly, or is it just that it seems that way to us because we want Kerry to win?"

"No, he's really falling apart," assured George.

It wasn't only a matter of style. Yes, Kerry seemed stronger in his convictions, and spoke clearly and eloquently. And yes, Bush seemed squirrely, unprepared, irritated, and, at times, high.

But whereas Bush had a handful of mantras he kept repeating over and over again -- "Mixed messages! We're doing everything we can! This is hard work!" -- Kerry actually appeared to answer the questions. And for once, he didn't let Bush's attacks go unchallenged.

Bush really hit bottom when Kerry passionately made the case that this administration all but abandoned their search for Osama bin-Laden in order to go after Saddam Hussein, who had no connection whatsoever to 911. Here's part of Bush's rebuttal:

"But to say that there's only one focus on the war on terror doesn't really understand the nature of the war on terror. Of course we're after Saddam Hussein - I mean bin Laden."

The collective gasp you heard afterward was that of the American people, seeing with their own eyes the fact that this president truly cannot distinguish between these two men.

Bush lost further ground every time he suggested that John Kerry, a Vietnam vet, was somehow bashing our troops by criticizing the mission in Iraq. Our troops are smart enough to know the difference, and so are the American people.

And Kerry's greatest accomplishment, in my opinion, was in calling Bush out on his lies, something the media have repeatedly failed to do. After Kerry pointed out that Bush's "broad coalition" going into Iraq consisted of England, Austalia, and us, Bush sniped: "Well, actually, he forgot Poland. And now there's 30 nations involved, standing side by side with our American troops."

When it was his turn to speak again, Kerry countered, "You can't tell me that when the most troops any other country has on the ground is Great Britain, with 8,300, and below that the four others are below 4,000, and below that, there isn't anybody out of the hundreds, that we have a genuine coalition to get this job done."

Just the facts, ma'am. And Americans like that.

A scientific ABC News poll after the debate found that:

45 percent of a sample of registered voters thought Kerry won, compared with 36 percent for Bush and 17 percent who called it a tie.

And a CBS News poll of uncommitted voters found that:

43 percent thought Kerry came out ahead while 28 percent said Bush was the winner.

And before all the right-wing comics on this site start screaming about liberal media bias, may I quote from the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post's Deborah Orin: "It may have been the worst debate that President Bush has ever had -- while Democrat John Kerry scored one of his best."

The Post's Stefan C. Friedman further reported, "Sen. John Kerry scored a decisive victory over an unusually off-his-game President Bush at the first of three debates last night, according to a 10-person bipartisan panel of political consultants and debate experts interviewed by The Post."

The obvious question now, is: Will the voters care? Kerry's run such a lackluster campaign up to this point that it remains to be seen whether his performance last night as compared with Bush's can transpose the polls, which have Bush running ahead in most key states.

One thing's for sure: The race just got a lot more interesting.