Wednesday, August 31, 2005

I Hate Gay Men

So I do my set at Gotham. And it goes really well. Once again, with a mostly straight crowd. And I'm feeling great, and all excited to go up to Therapy and host my first show. And I get to Therapy, and the place is not that crowded (it's a Tuesday night, after all), but all the tables in the performance area are full, and Colin Kane and Brian Balthazar are there, and they're psyched, and we're all rarin' to go.

And Scott Nevins introduces me from the DJ booth, and I go up, and it's great... for about 30 seconds.

And then these queens just turn on me. They stop listening. They begin talking amongst themselves. The noise becomes deafening. I do some crowd work, all the while thinking, "What would Ron Poole do?" And it's OK. but the noise continues. And I continue. And it's like performing in a vacuum. If anyone's laughing, I can't hear them. I can't get control of the room. Refusing to be intimidated, I press on. I do about 15 minutes of material. Then I introduce Colin.

Colin's a straight guy -- young, from Long Island, very cute. He's got balls. He makes fun of the crowd. His humor is rather homophobic and racist. (Personally, I find it hilarious.) He's got their attention, but he's also pissing a lot of them off. (One ad-lib involves an audience member shoving a Louisville Slugger up his ass.) Nevertheless, he's doing OK -- certainly better than I. He's provocative, and he's got their attention. He finishes.

I go back up. It's even worse than before. I try another bit -- nothing. I introduce Brian Balthazer. He's brilliant as always. But the crowd barely responds.

Scott Nevins begs me to finish with my 1010 WINS bit. It's a lost cause, but I have nothing to lose at this point. I do it. It rings as hollow as the rest of my set. "Thank you!," I say, "I haven't had this much fun since the time I had syphillis."

Nevins walks me home. He is very sweet and gives me a pep talk about the challenges of performing for a gay audience, especially at Therapy.

I totally appreciate it, but WHAT THE FUCK?! Why can't I make gay men laugh? Why do they always make me feel like I'm back in high school, trying to climb that damn rope in gym class?

Frustrated does not begin to describe how I'm feeling. I had a great opportunity tonight, and I feel like I blew it. And the worst part is, I don't know what I could have done differently.

Now it's 1 a.m. and I have to be up for work tomorrow morning, and I am eating myself into oblivion.



Postscript: As I was typing this pathetic lament, I received the following email from someone who was at Therapy tonight:

"caught your act tonight. tough crowd. but you're hot.
thanks for getting me out.
Pete"

Great.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Calling All NYC Comics

I will be hosting my very first (and perhaps last) comedy show at Therapy bar tomorrow, Tuesday, Aug. 30, at 11 p.m. (This happened at the last minute, when the scheduled performer backed out.)

Performing with me will be Brian Balthazar and Colin Kane, two very talented comics about whom I have written previously on this blog.

I post this for two reasons:

1) I need people to show up and laugh loudly.

2) If this DOES become a regular gig, I am going to need comics. So any fellow soapboxers in the NYC area who are interested in performing should come check out the space and say hello to me afterwards. (And please bring your tape if I haven't already watched you perform.)

Here are the details:

Tuesday, August 30th at 11 p.m.
Therapy
348 W 52nd Street (b/t 8th & 9th Aves)
No cover charge or minimum.
www.therapy-nyc.com

Much Love and Peace Out.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

I Love Bill Maher

A quick unsolicited plug here for "Real Time with Bill Maher," which just had its season premiere. I had forgotton how much I loved this show until I watched it tonight. It featured Chris Rock, former Homeland Security Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson, anorexic neo-con bitch Kellyanne Conway and the always diabaolical Phyllis Schlafly, age 127.

Believe it or not, only Chris Rock disappointed me. To say he phoned it in would imply he exerted enough energy to lift a phone. He had one recurring joke -- about gas prices being too high -- and it wasn't funny enought to sustain an hour-long show.

But Maher is still on top of his game, and, sadly, one of the only talk show hosts left in the country with the balls to challenge the extremist Bush administration. When Conway made the ludicrous claim that women were enjoying greater civil liberties in the post-Saddam Iraq, Maher interrupted her by asking, "Really? Whose ass did you pull that out of?"

Interviewing Schlafly via satellite, Maher wondered aloud why so many Christian conservatives, herself included, have gay children. (She refused to answer.)

And his best joke was about Pope Benedict reaching out to the Jews in Germany:

"Actually, the Pope is in his home country to promote his new summer comedy, 'The 80-Year-Old Virgin.' And he visited a synagogue that had been destroyed by the Nazis. He apologized to the Jews for the synaogue's destruction, and then he asked, if, when they were rebuilding it, anyone had found his wallet."

On a more personal note, I got confirmation tonight that I will be hosting a biweekly (if not bisexual) show at Therapy bar on W. 52nd Street, beginning in mid-September. I'm way psyched and will be looking to book comics very soon.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Rehoboth Beach Memoirs

What if you gave a first-rate performance and nobody laughed? Does that truly qualify as bombing? Such was the question facing me after my latest out-of-town gig, at the Blue Moon in Rehoboth Beach, Del.

First I should tell you the trip was, on the whole, wonderful. After being essentially shat on by New York City clubs for two years now, there's nothing quite like traveling somewhere and being treated like a star. My transportation to and from Delaware was paid for, as were all my meals, drinks and overnight stay at the Royal Rose Inn, a charming little bed & breakfast. The club had taken out ads for my show in the local rags -- photos included. They also set up a large poster-sized reproduction of my head shot and bio on an easel outside the club. (I tried unsuccessfully to resist the temptation to stand next to it and see if anyone recognized me. Nobody did.)



And the Blue Moon itself is a really nice space. One side of it is an elegant restaurant (where I enjoyed a succulent duck breast drizzled with hoisin sauce). The other side is the bar and performance space, which is semi-open air. If you look up while you're onstage, you can see the night sky. Cool.

For the show, white folding chairs are set up in front of a temporary stage in a wedding formation. Performers are provided with a wireless mic and a manned spotlight. There was no opener and no other acts booked. Just me.

All of which got me very pumped to get up there and kill the crowd. Aside from the 40-odd minutes I had prepped in the weeks leading up to the gig, I wrote about 10 minutes of new topical material on the train, including a bit about Madonna getting thrown from the horse (which had just happened the day before).

I spent the day working and re-working my set list, as well as trying out some of the newer bits on my tour guide and driver, Daniel, who also works the spotlight at the club and occasionally performs in drag as Tisha Towers. (She is also the reigning Miss Gay Delaware.)


Blue Moon owner Tim Ragan with Tisha Towers;
They were both wonderful to me.

So what happened, exactly? I'm still not quite sure. I did my stuff. I came at them with as much energy as I could muster. Virtually everything got laughs. And yet -- I couldn't escape feeling like, "Something's missing here." They were too quiet. I had to fight for every laugh. They certainly didn't LOVE me. At best, I'd say they found me amusing. (All except for the one straight couple in the corner, both of whom looked as if they were hooked up to dialysis machines throughout the show. I considered calling them out on their sour pusses but then remembered there's no surer way to alienate an audience who's already questioning your ability to entertain.)

The feedback I got afterwards was positive but muted. Tellingly, more guys complimented me on my ass than on my material. If only my ass could tell jokes.

And I have to wonder: This is the third time I've performed for a majority-gay audience where the reception hasn't been spectacular (the first two being in CancĂșn and in Cherry Grove). And then I think about the Hal Sparks shows at Carolines, attended by mostly straight crowds, in which I consistently killed. Am I a gay comic who can't play to gay audiences but whom straight audiences find hilarious? And if this is the case, does that mean my act is some sort of modern-day minstrel show?


Well, lookee here! I be gay and funny!

The fact is, the defining element of gay club entertainment is drag. (In fact, I was only one of two non-drag performers booked by the Blue Moon all summer.) I enjoy watching good drag. Lypsinka and Charles Busch, for example, are geniuses in my opinion, as are many lesser known queens. But I am not a drag queen, and my humor is of a different sensibility. My favorite standups include David Spade and Bill Maher -- hardly gay icons.

And when you think about it, the list of out gay male comics who have made it to the big league -- Jim David, Bob Smith, and Ant among them -- is very small. (Lesbians have fared somewhat better.) I'm beginning to wonder what my niche is, and what it should be.


Or maybe I'm just in denial about a lukewarm performance on my part. After all, funny is funny. Maybe I just need more practice.

On that confident note, come see me at Gotham Comedy Club's gay showcase next Tuesday, Aug. 30.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Ranch Hands

The world is ending. This is Armageddon. There's no other explanation for this level of heat and humidity. Yes, I know it's August, but this is f-cking insane. There is no air conditioner on earth powerful enough to provide relief. I have shaved off every hair on my head and body in a desperate attempt to stop sweating. It doesn't help. New York City has become Satan's own private steam room. According to AOL Weather, the temperature is 98 degrees at this moment, with 47% relative humidity and a real-feel temperature of 107.

107!

The horror, the horror.

It was considerably less humid in Sedalia, Colo., where I returned from last week after eight days and seven nights at Lost Valley Ranch with 12 other members of my family: A truly memorable vacation, filled with long days of horseback riding, delicious home-cooked meals, and a touch of fundamentalist Christianity thrown in for good measure.

Yes, unbeknownst to my mother and her travel agent, we Jersey Jews booked ourselves for a long stay at Camp Jesus. Our first inkling of this came the first night, when a member of each family was asked to stand up, introduce himself and his family, and explain how he had met his spouse. Again and again, we heard variations of,

"Howdy. I'm Jim-Bob Johnson and this is the Johnson family, from Kansas City. I met my wife in church."

"Hey, y'all. I'm Billy-John Olsen, and we're from St. Louis. My wife and I met in Bible study."

When it came time for our turn, I wanted badly to stand up and say, "Hi, I'm Adam Sank, from Manhattan. And I met my boyfriend in a bathroom stall. Unfortunately, I never got his name."

But I refrained.

Truthfully, we felt very comfortable there, even with the Bible verse that appeared atop our daily ranch newsletter and the strange glances I got from most of the wranglers, all of whom looked like they had just stepped out of an Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue. Talk about ranch hands; holy blue balls, Batman.

Speaking of which, lest anyone think I had opportunity to get wild with a cowboy or two, I should tell you it would have been impossible, even had I found a willing stable boy. In fact, I had to share a cabin the entire week with my geriatric parents. Not at all awkward. One night, I awoke to the sound of a loud, wheezy moaning: "Unnnnnhhhh! Unnnnnnhhh!"

Please, God, I thought, let that not be coming from their bedroom. I later learned the noise was actually made by a donkey who had been tied up in the corral outside our cabin. (Ironically enough, my parents had been having sex with it.)

Other highlights:

1) Climbing to the top of a peek known as Sheep's Rock on a 6:30 hike one morning. About 1/5 the way up the mountain, my father stopped and sat down on a flat boulder to rest. "You go on," he told us, "I'll catch up with you in a moment." We didn't see him again until we had finished the hike and climbed back down, only to discover him asleep on that same rock. We were sure he was dead.

2) Getting soundly beaten by my 10- and 12-year-old nephews in ping-pong, which would have been less humiliating had they not also been laughing the entire time and saying things like, "Oh my God, you are so BAD!"

3) Watching my almost-two-year-old nephew, Xander, steal the show with his dancing every time the staff got up to sing us a Christian hymn.

4) Learning how to trot and lope atop my horse, who, appropriately, was named Ragtime. I only embarrassed myself once, the last day, during the rodeo, when Ragtime refused to run around the barrels. In contrast, my sister, Anna, was thrown off off not one but two different horses over the course of the week. Good times.

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How butch am I?

5) Eating enough food every day to kill a horse. Between the pancakes, muffins, hash browns, sandwiches, steak chops, ice cream and fruit punch (which was like 200-proof sugar), I porked up and returned to New York at 175 lbs., a new personal record. A hundred-seventy-five lbs. may not sound like a lot for guy who's 5'11', but in the gay world it's approaching pre-surgery Carnie Wilson territory. I've been doing mega-cardio at the gym every day and eating nothing but Tic-Tacs since my return. It seems to be working; I'm down to 170 now.

With that, I'm off to Rehoboth Beach Wednesday for a headlining performance at The Blue Moon. I'm excited -- they put my photo on their web site: http://www.bluemoonrehoboth.com/gallery2.htm.

I'm thinking of opening with the donkey joke.