Monday, December 26, 2005

Chanukah With the Sanks

First thing's first: You know that Hidden Rally Ranch commercial? The one showing how you can make salsa using Hidden Valley Ranch? And they run a montage of sound bites of white trash-people testifying as to how delicious the ranch salsa is? OK, you know the woman at the end who says who says "It's jazzy!... pizzazzy!"? Well, for reasons I don't fully understand, she makes me want to commit murder. Seriously. I am filled with rage toward her each and every time the commercial airs. It's not rational: I know she's just some actress reading a line that was written for her. But I want her to suffer.

Boycott this product.

Speaking of the holidays, I'm just back from a lovely 48-hour Christmukkah with the extended Sank clan in Summit, NJ. Friday night was our annual Chanukah party, where we exchange Secret Chanukah Harry gifts (sad, sad Christian wannabes that we are). As always, I had drawn my sister Laura's name. This time around I presented her with a vintage costume-emerald bracelet, which she either loved or hated -- I can never tell with Laura.

My Aunt Teresa had drawn my name, and she got me two cute t-shirts from Banana Republic. And, unlike my mother, who always gets me extra-large (despite the fact that I am built like Kate Moss with a penis*), Teresa got me size small -- just the way I like 'em! Way to go, Auntie T!
Best present honors, however, go to my parents, who got me a Canon PowerShot A610 digital camera and Epson Stylus photo printer as a combination Chanukah-Birthday gift. (My birthday's in February.) Love 'em both!

Here are the first photos taken with the camera:

Mom, Aunt Teresa, and Granny

Dad and Me (Wearing one of the new T-Shirts)

My Sisters: Laura, to my left and Anna, right.

Nieces: Molly and Hadley.

Laura's Psychotic Border Collie, Trixie

I spent that night at the home of my hairy sister, Anna, and her bald-but-beautiful husband, Guy, along with their kiddees.
Then spent Saturday night and Christmas morning with Laura and her family... then back to Anna's for a Christmas luncheon... then back to the city to sleep off the amount of food I had just eaten. (Oy, vey -- Anna's goldie bars!)

Mighty pleased tonight to read Next Magazine's wrap of the Therapy Christmas party, particularly the following portions:

...Comedian Adam Sank also snuck some festive humor into the festivities (his...ummm..."jingle bells" remained concealed, however...).

...but even their raucous caroling couldn't eclipse the endless cavorting of Angelique Ali, who served up a full set of seven numbers that by the end had at least one queen quipping, "It's the season of giving -- you'd think she'd at least share the spotlight.

Ah, sweet vindication.

Back to work tomorrow... and the New Year's Eve diet starts NOW!

* Extra credit to anyone who can say where I stole this joke from...


Thursday, December 22, 2005

Hava Na-GAY-Lah

Somewhere, my Jewish ancestors must be smiling: I was just booked to play the Catskills. On Jan. 28., I'll be appearing at the Andes Hotel in the village of Andes. Granted, it's hardly the Borscht Belt of yore. I'm told a good number of audience members will be arriving on snowmobile. SNOWMOBILE! Anyone got any snowmobile material? I got nothing.

Performing with me will be Ken Pearlstein and Sarah Fearon. We're all driving up together in Ken's Honda Civic. I am so excited I'm plotzing.

Speaking of plotzing, I am still recovering from Therapy's Holiday party last Sunday night, when plus-sized Burlesque chanteuse Allison Tilsen played host to myself and a number of other performers in front of a very large, very loud, very drunk crowd. Allison was dressed in a skin-tight Mrs. Claus outfit which barely covered her nipples. I wore my slutty red party pants (mentioned here previously in my 4th of July blog), a form-fitting white thermal, black suspenders and a nylon Santa hat with flashing red stars around the rim. Classy.

Look! I'm a Christmas Ball!

I was up first and delivered what can only be described a shitty set. I started strong -- remarking that Allison's breasts could feed an African village for six months -- for just 52 cents a day. The crowd liked that. Then I launched into my "Brokeback Mountain" bit, which has proved quite reliable of late. So I mentioned that I saw an adult version of the movie in the video store called "Bareback Mountain." That's not the punchline -- it's part of the setup -- but apparently it was just too hack for somebody sitting near the front, who bellowed, "How original!" at the top of his lungs.

Now, as any comic knows, there are two ways you can react to a heckler: You can ignore him and pretend you didn't hear what he said. Or you can acknowledge what he said, confront him and try to wring laughs out of the situation, preferably at his expense. You cannot, however, do what I did, which is to acknowledge him, fall silent for 10 seconds, and then continue with the joke. I might as well have waved a white flag. Once they smelled my fear, the crowd was like, "Whatever," and I was done. I recovered momentarily with a joke about the fact that one of the guys in the front row had his back to me, but it wasn't enough.

I later learned (and observed for myself) that I wasn't the only one targeted by the heckler, the miserable fuck. He spent the entire evening shouting things at whomever was on stage: "You are so BAD! You SUCK!" He finally left after my friend Seth threatened him with violence, but it was too late to save my damaged reputation. Or so I thought.

I hadn't planned to drink much, but our waiter kept bringing Seth and me what we assumed were free drinks. Then he brought us a $60 check for both the drinks and a bunch of appetizers we had neither ordered nor been served. We later found out that he was high on something and had been sent home.

Anyway, I was fairly trashed when Allison came over to remind me about our big dance number. She had written a song for the finale entitled "Hooray for Chanukah," and wanted to invite me on-stage for a combination dance/strip-tease. She had made a special costume for this number -- a blue and silver sequined bra-and-panties -- and planned to change in the stairwell during the second-to-last performer's set.

Now, there are a few things I can do well. I can tell a joke. I can sing a little bit. I can French braid hair. I make a mean pot of chili. But I am not -- repeat not -- a dancer. Once in college, in a production of "Evita," the choreographer had to change the entire "Stand Back, Buenos Aires" number because I alone could not do a single pirouette, despite hours and hours of practice.

So needless to say, I was very nervous about this dance routine, which Allison and I had only rehearsed once a mere two minutes before the show. It was simple enough: Right-step, left-behind, right-step, left-front, right-step, left-touch. Left-step, right-behind, left-step, right-front, left-step, right-touch. Turn to the right, turn to the left, clap-clap, shimmy-shimmy, cha-cha-cha.

Then I was supposed to step behind Allison and unhook her bra. At the cymbal crash, she'd let the bra drop, revealing Star of David falsies. Then she'd take my shirt off, we'd do a little bumping and grinding, and it would be done.

Simple, right?

As Allison went to change costumes, Angelique Ali took the stage. Angelique is a very pretty, very petite drag queen with a nice signing voice and a loyal fan following. She is also, like most drag queens, the only person who exists in her universe. Earlier, she had gone up and performed three songs. The plan was, she would retake the stage, do one... maybe two songs... and bring Allison back up for the Chanukah finale.

So Angelique gets up and does a song. Then another. Then another. Each time she finishes, she goes, "Y'all want me to do another?," and her 10 groupies in the crowd go bat-shit. Finally, I go to check on Allison. She's back there with the bar manager, and they're like, "Adam, you've got to get Angelique off the stage."

Me: "Me?! Why me?!"

Allison: "Because I don't want the crowd to see my costume until I start the song. Just wait until Angelique finishes this song, then jump up on stage and take the mic from her."

A Legend in Her Own Mind

So now I'm standing next to the stage staring up at Angelique, who has no idea who I am. At one point, she motions for me,. and I approach the stage. "Hey, baby," she says, pushing a crumpled napkin into my hand, "Will you throw this out for me? Thanks." At the end of her song, as instructed, I leap onto the stage and make a Ryan Seacrest motion with my arms, like a "Isn't she wonderful?" type of gesture. And Angelique looks at me, turns toward the crowd, and says, into the mic, "Um, Security?"

At this point, I grab the mic. "Angelique Ali, ladies and gentlemen! Give it up for her! And now, please welcome back to the stage, your hostess for the evening, Allison Tilsen!"

Angelique finally takes the hint and steps off the stage.

Crisis averted, Allison comes out in her Chanukah bra-and-panties. I am next to the stage again, so drunk I am teetering, awaiting what I'm sure will be a dance-related disaster. I hear Allison say, "Adam Sank, ladies and gentlemen, he's a Jew, too!" And the next thing I know, we're dancing. Incredibly, we're perfectly in sync.
I don't miss a step. The crowd is LOVING IT!

Now I'm behind Allison, trying to unhook her bra. It occurs to me that I haven't unhooked a bra in over a decade, and when I did I was facing the woman. It looks simple enough -- three little hooks. But Allison's breasts really are massive. There is absolutely no wiggle room. I manage to get two hooks, but the third won't budge. So I end up pulling the bra straps off her shoulders and just sort of yanking the whole thing down.

I come out from behind her. She pulls my shirt off as I shimmy down her leg. Inexplicably, I begin doing the kozotsky, something I haven't attempted since my Bar Mitzvah days, causing major damage to my knees. Finally, our big finish: "HOO-RAY FOR CHA-NU-KAH!"

Ten minutes later, I am down in the bathroom throwing up Tanqueray and tonic. But for one shining moment, I was a dancing star.

Maybe I should end that way in the Catskills.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Celebrity Sightings

In the last five days, I've randomly ended up in the same room with three of the most famous people on earth. Sadly, I didn't sleep with any of them. But still...

Tuesday night, my friend and former boss, Jan, took me to see the Monty Python musical, "SpamAlot." The show's a lot of fun, particularly if you're a Monty Python fan. Best of all was getting to see Tim Curry, David Hyde Pierce and Hank Azaria live on stage. (And no, those aren't the three famous people I spoke of in the first paragraph. It doesn't count if they're on stage.)

Anyway, Jan and I had great seats -- fourth row Orchestra. So we're sitting there at intermission, and Jan leans over to me and says, "Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are here."


Me: "Where?"

Jan: "About 10 rows behind us, sitting down."

Me: "Oh, God, I have to look at them. But I want to be subtle about it."

Eavesdropping Man Behind Us Who Wouldn't Shut Up The Entire Show: "I don't think you gotta worry about being subtle. Take a look."

So I turn around slowly, and literally the entire audience is staring at Tom, Katie and their big black bodyguard as if they were animals in a zoo.

And I have to tell you -- no matter how many times I've seen him on screen, and no matter how much I loathe his Scientology crap and the fact that he's probably a closet case, I can't describe to you how stunningly good-looking Tom Cruise is. Even in the darkness of a Broadway theater, he gleams. He's also really tiny, but I like that.

Katie, on the other hand, has seen better days. She looks very pregnant and uncomfortable. Her hair is frizzy and wound in a tight, high pony tail. She towers over Tom.

I have a very hard time the entire second act keeping my eyes on the stage. I keep turning around to see how Tom and Katie are reacting. I am a total ass.

A File Photo -- NOT taken during "SpamAlot."

At the end of the show, the cast comes out for their curtain call, and I, along with every other audience member is like, "Yay! Clap clap clap! Woosh!," as we whirl around to stare at Tom and Katie again. They applaud, get up and leave -- quickly -- after Tom helps Katie on with her giant coat.

Fast forward to last night -- Friday -- when I go with Amy Slotnick to see a screening of "Good Night and Good Luck" at the Directors Guild of America. It's a really terrific film, especially if you're interested in politics, journalism, or the role of the media in society.

So the movie ends and the credits roll and nobody moves. There are some chairs set up in front of the screen, so apparently there is to be some sort of Q & A. But Amy and I are starving and don't care about the Q & A. We get up, stepping on hundreds of toes, and move to the front exits... only to literally bump into George Clooney.

Clooney, who co-wrote and directed the film, is, I assume, campaigning for the DGA awards, which explains his presence at the screening. After stopping in our tracks, Amy and I look around and realize that standing with Clooney are David Strathairn, who plays Edward R. Murrow, and Frank Langella, who plays William Paley. Now we're in a dilemma: We've already gotten up from our seats, but now we're standing two inches from the stars of the film including, need I remind you, Clooney (who is himself mighty hot in real life, though not in the film).

The credits continue to roll. Nobody moves. We remain paralyzed. Finally, hunger wins out, and we bolt. Bye bye, Clooney.

Maybe I'll run into Madonna tonight.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A Eulogy Gets the Biggest Laugh

Apologies for the late update -- I know you've all been breathless with anticipation. So here goes: This past weekend was one of my happiest ever, comedy-wise. And by "happiest" I mean "most drunken."

Friday night I hosted "75 Steps" a night of improv at the Access Theater. (I had incorrectly referred to it in a previous post as "17 Steps.") So it turns out the performance area is actually 75 steps from ground level, with no working elevator. I'm so glad my 88-year-old Granny didn't show up -- we would have needed a sherpa to carry her up there.

The three improv groups performing were Fickle, Motorboat and Harsh (whose members describe what they do as "improvised tragedy"). The first thing I noticed was how friendly all the performers were. As has often been discussed on this site, standup comics are, by and large, miserable, nasty people. By contrast, improv players are positively delightful, if these folks are representative of the genre.

Whereas comics are all, "Look at me! Notice me! Who gives a fuck about you?!", improv-ers are all about healthy group dynamics. They give you their full attention. They laugh at your jokes. They smile. They act a little like those kids who suffer from Williams Syndrome, whom Morley Safer famously profiled on "60 Minutes" back in 1997.

Hanging out with the improv-ers before the show was like attending a really friendly theater camp, but less gay. And let me tell you, being immersed in that environment before going on-stage feels a helluva lot better than sitting in the back of a dark club with a bunch of pissy, aloof comics ignoring you as they pretend to go over their little note cards.

Adding to my preshow buzz was a fine bottle of Rosé. The members of Fickle, who produced the event, had gone out and filled an ice-chest with beer and wine, which was free for the performers and audience members. That's class. Also, I was apparently the only fan of
Rosé, so I had the whole bottle to myself.

The theater itself was small, with a capacity of just 74 seats. And so, including all the improv members, we had a full house. There was no microphone -- a first for me -- and
the stage consisted of low wooden platforms pushed together in front of a white backdrop. The result was a feeling of intimacy, as if I were telling stories at the dinner table instead of performing shtick in front of strangers. I got laughs in places I never expected to. I heard myself twisting old material in new and better ways. And, because I was introducing improv groups and not other comics, I felt no sense of needing to be "better" than anyone else. It was lovely.

Saturday, I got an email from the editor of, informing me that someone would be coming to review my Therapy show the following night. It would be my first-ever review, and I immediately swung into action -- emailing all my friends and family to come be part of the crowd. (Unfortunately, in my haste, I announced that was coming to review the show, prompting my friend Isaac Steven Vaughan to wonder why a cooking site would be running comedy reviews).

In a rare fit of creative energy, I produced a detailed joke lineup, including a number of new bits. (Yes, I know - you NEVER do new bits in front of an important crowd, but I was feeling really emboldened by the "75 Steps" experience.) In an homage to "Brokeback Mountain," I dressed up in cowboy gear left over from my family's trip to the dude ranch last August. (Incidentally, everyone on earth seems to love the movie, so don't take my word for it.)

The image cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Leaving my apartment Sunday night, I felt oddly confident. Until I got to Therapy... and found it was virtually empty. The bar had held a private party for the cast of "Hairspray" earlier, and the party was closed to the public. Plus, they weren't showing "Desperate Housewives" on the widescreen, since the show's in reruns. Oh, and the kitchen was closed.

None of this boded well.

Nevertheless, my friends Charles and Ray did show up. Ray is from Costa Rica and is famous for his malapropisms. (Once, after undergoing surgery, he said, "I'm still feeling clowny from the Anastasia.") But he's got a big, contagious laugh so I was thrilled to have him there.

Slowly, a few more people wandered in. Then a few more. And somehow, by 10 o'clock, every table but one was filled -- the one being that which I had reserved for the folks from newyorkcool. So we waited. Then, around 10:15, they wandered in. After introducing themselves, they asked what kind of food was available. Um, none -- the kitchen's closed. Oh, OK, well, we're going to get some food and come back.

So we waited some more. And around 10:25, worried that we were going to start losing people (remember: there's no cover charge), I started the show, newyorkcool or not. I did about six very strong minutes. Then, looking down and seeing the one empty table, I decided to level with the audience.

"Look, I'm kind of bummed because we were supposed to be reviewed tonight by a web site called '' And they got here late, and then they wanted food, but our kitchen's closed, so they left, and..." and just as I'm saying this, guess who magically reappears... "and here they are now! Please welcome!"

So they wound up getting entrance applause.

The rest of the show went off without a hitch. Ms. Wendy Ho, a crowd favorite at Therapy, got up and sang two of her classic songs, "Bitch, I Stole Your Purse," and "Fuck Me," to thunderous acclaim. New mom Carolyn Castiglia went up next and did some hilariously edgy breast-feeding material. And my headliner, Danny McWilliams, finished us off with a rousing set of his greatest hits. (My personal favorite: After I introduce him, he says, in perfect Joan Rivers voice, "Give it up for my daughter, Melissa, ladies and gentlemen!")

The only iffy moment came when I eulogized Richard Pryor. I had wrestled with whether I should risk bringing down the room by talking about Pryor's death, and ended up deciding that a nice, short mention of his significance would be both appropriate and well received.

So I wrote the following:

"I hate to bring down the room, but we lost Richard Pryor this weekend. You know, comedy is important -- not the comedy I do, but comedy in general -- because it's the tool by which we cut through all the bullshit and get to what's honest and what's real in life. And there's a short list of comics in this world who really exemplify that mission: People like Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Chris Rock, Bill Maher, Margaret Cho, and most of all, Richard Pryor. So I just wanted to acknowledge what a great loss his death is to all of us, and to hope that he's looking down on us tonight and enjoying himself."

But here's what actually transpired.

Me: I hate to bring down the room, but we lost Richard Pryor this weekend...

Ray: (From the audience) Wha? Huh?

Me: Richard Pryor, Ray. He died this weekend.


Apparently something was lost in translation.

After the show, the newyorkcool folks joined me and the other performers at our table for many, many drinks. They seemed to have genuinely enjoyed themselves, so I have reason to hope for a positive review. You'll read it when I do.

Oh, and one more thing: "HX" ran a photo of of me and the Therapy lineup from Dec. 4 in its current issue:

I look like a pregnant woman who's been in the sun too long.


Tuesday, December 6, 2005

A Lonely Jew on Christmas

So it turns out there's a reason Bob Smith has been on "The Tonight Show" and had his own HBO special: He's really good. As I've ranted about before in this space, Therapy can be a bitch of a room -- a big, gay, jaded, bitch who refuses to laugh at anything and delights in humiliating performers. Fortunately, she had taken her Prozac Sunday night and was on her best behavior. The room was full and focused, and there were actually more people upstairs in the performing area than downstairs in the bar.

Still, it was something of a struggle for me, as it often is there. I did very well with a brand new joke about but was less successful with some of my greatest hits. That always freaks me out. Also, my crowd work was minimal; I kept looking around the room in vain for somebody to connect with. Still, most people seemed to be smiling, if not fully engaged.

Robert H. Keller
was up first, and did the same material I've enjoyed from him in the past. As they had been with me, the crowd was slow to warm. But by the end, when he did his hilarious Spanish soap opera bit, they were cheering.

Up next was Tara Clancy, who did her coming-out monologue -- the one I had heard her do in Shawn Hollenbach's "Coming Out" show. As I watched her with Bob, he leaned over to me and said, "She's terrific." I heartily agreed.

And then finally, I introduced Bob, who did about 25 minutes. From the first moment, he had them. It's something in his eyes -- he just connected immediately and didn't let go. His material was bright, original and hugely entertaining. It was also, interestingly enough, largely rated PG. That's significant in that he was performing in front of a gay, urban crowd who have seen and done it all. Maybe the lesson is
, don't try to shock the unshockable. Just make them laugh.

A Total Pro.

All in all, I was thrilled by how the night turned out. "HX" sent a photographer, so hopefully we'll have some nice coverage come Friday's issue.

Last night, I went with my friend Amy Slotnick to a screening of "Brokeback Mountain," the new Ang Lee gay-cowboy movie. I came in with tremendous expectations; the film's been getting great advance buzz, and who doesn't want to see Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal humping? Plus, I've been telling a Brokeback joke at most of my gigs lately, and it always does well.

So I liked it. It's well made. Ledger and Gyllenhaal both give great performances. The sex scenes are hot. But the bottom line, so to speak, is that I didn't think it was all that special.
I so wanted the movie to blow me away -- again, so to speak -- and it didn't. And that's a huge disappointment, given how rarely a film like this gets made with major (and hunky) stars. It's hard to imagine who, other than flaming mo's like myself, will want to see it

But maybe I just need to watch it again. In the dark. Alone.

"Brokeback Mountain? More Like 'Brokeback Mountin'!'"

As I type this, my DVR is playing the most recent "Saturday Night Live," with Dane Cook as host. The episode is so-so, but I have to say it's great to have an actual comedian delivering an actual monologue at the top of the show. For the last decade or so, SNL's opening monologue has been a totally formulaic void consisting of the following: Host comes on-stage, host says, "Well, it's great to be here..." and is then interrupted by one or more regular cast members. Mindless shtick ensues.

Full disclosure: I'm not that familiar with Cook or his material. But I liked what I saw a lot. His last bit, about bouncing a cashew off his penis, made me laugh out loud. It was also rather titillating, as is the fact that he has size 12 (!) feet. (Sadly, my own feet are size 8 and 1/2. I was almost cast as the lead in "Memoirs of a Geisha.")

I went out this past weekend and bought a Christmas tree. Having been raised in a Jewish household, I always felt deprived and swore that someday I'd have this lovely pagan symbol in my own home. And no bullshit fake aluminum tree, either.

So, as is the custom in NYC, I went out to the corner deli and plunked down $25 for one of their sad little dried-up trees. It's up now, and I put the lights on and decorated it with the few ornaments I've collected over the years. But I must admit, the whole thing's just a big pain in the ass. There are pine needles all over my apartment. I live in constant fear of the thing igniting every time I leave the room. And somebody advised me to add sugar to the water in the base, which I did -- in copious amounts. So now, not only do I have my own Christmas tree, I have my own ant farm. Joyeux Noël, indeed.

Would that my tree were this nice.

Before all you Jewtopians start bitching at me, I have my menorah out, too, complete with some lovely h
andmade candles from Israel. Because everyone knows nothing compares to a six-foot tree like a six-inch candelabra. It's shocking this whole Christianity thing ever caught on.


Saturday, December 3, 2005

I, Publicity Whore

God bless the gay press. They've been really good about promoting my show tomorrow night, which features gay comedy pioneer Bob Smith.

"HX" Magazine says in its "Homo Musts" for Sunday, 12/4:

Get your latest fix of Desperate Housewives tonight at Therapy. Then stick around for Adam Sank's Electro Shock Therapy Comedy Hour, with very special guest Bob Smith -- the first openly gay comic ever to appear on The Tonight Show and have his own HBO special. Electroshock @therapy, 348 W 52nd St, 212-397-1700,, 9pm, free.

And they ran a photo of Bob.

"Next" lists the event in their "Week Ahead," saying:

Electro Shock Therapy Comedy Hour at therapy, 348 W 52nd St (btwn Eighth/Ninth Aves), 212-397-1700,, Hells Kitchen gets a therapeutic dose of theatrics and intrigue as nut-job Adam Sank gets certifiable with his Electro Shock Therapy Comedy Hour. Special guest Bob Smith is joined by Tara Clancy and Robert Keller for an evening of queer comical genius. Come early for the latest episode of Desperate Housewives at 9pm and stay for live comedy afterwards. $5 cosmos all night. Free.

They also ran a photo. Wish they wouldn't keep calling me "nut-job," though. I prefer blow-jobs.

The web site noted in their Friday "Out There" listing:

Bob Smith, the first openly gay comic to appear on The Tonight Show and have his own HBO special will be joining Adam Sank this Sunday night at Therapy in NYC. Have a few laughs and cruise guys at the same time.

And the cherry on my publicity cake was a full-page ad in "Next," paid for by the management at Therapy. (Thanks, guys!)

So after all this, I better bring it. Of course, I am sick with anxiety. It's like my Bar Mitzvah all over again, but without the presents.

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And you don't wanna KNOW where the Rabbi's other hand was...

If I knew what was good for me, I'd tie myself to the computer until I came up with some kick-ass new material. But instead, I'm going out tonight to get drunk. Cheers.