Saturday, April 26, 2008

Outta Site

My last blog seemed to strike a chord with a lot of people. Apparently I'm not the only one who had a miserable middle school existence. I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of heartfelt comments, emails and phone calls I received, especially from my childhood friend Jilleyen, and another person from whom I was shocked to receive a truly lovely email. She knows who she is.

Characteristically, my family's reaction was quite different: Their chief concern was that I used the real names of my middle school cohorts, and that this could come back to haunt me. After much reflection, I was persuaded to change one name -- that of the ski-trip blow-job guy. Rest assured, everything I wrote was true. But I don't want to be responsible for breaking up someone's marriage.

The reaction to writing about my middle school misadventures was so strong that I've decided to share some additional memories in an upcoming blog. Also coming soon, a major blog posting in which my big plans for the future will be revealed.

But first, I am in the process of moving this blog from Comedy Soapbox and my MySpace page to my own unique blog page. There are a number of reasons for doing this, but chief among them is: Money.

Sites generate advertising revenue based on the number of hits they receive and the number of people who click on the ads that appear on those sites. And as much as I love Soapbox and Myspace, I'd rather make money for myself than for them. Granted, we're not talking big bucks here; a fellow Soapboxer who moved his blog off this page informs me that it generates about a buck a month for him. Still, that'll be a buck more a month than I was making before.

Plus, I must say, I find the blog page here a bid unwieldy, technically speaking, and the end result is aesthetically displeasing. It's easier to post photos and links, play with fonts and so forth using the host site.


What I'm doing now is transferring over each and every blog I've posted over the past four years. This is a gargantuan task, as there are literally hundreds of posts, and I have to transfer them one at a time. So far, I've only moved blogs from my earliest two months, August and September, 2004. If any of my die-hard readers would like to take a trip down memory lane, I encourage you to reread them. And actually, I'd love to hear what the rest of you think of the format, user-friendliness and overall look of the new blog.

You can check it out here.

You're welcome to leave your comments either here or on the new blog. Once I've finished moving all the archives and am up to date, new posts will appear ONLY on the new blog.

That's all for now. Stay tuned for some REALLY big news.

Homo out.

Come see me host the Electro Shock Therapy Comedy Hour this Sunday, April 27 when my special guests will be Bernadette Pauley, Giulia Rozzi, Brian Barry and Veronica Quinn. Details on my web site.

Friday, April 18, 2008

My Least Favorite Year

Here's what I love about stand-up comedy:

Getting on-stage and making people laugh.

Here's what I hate:

Everything else.

Honestly, I'm beginning to wonder if this isn't the worst thing I could possibly be doing with my life, and if I'm just not cut out for it at all. Because lately, it's all feeling like 7th grade all over again.

Me at 13, with Dr. Bunson Honeydew.

Seventh grade was the worst year of my adolescence. That was the year I left the comfort and camaraderie of Brayton School, the local elementary where I had spent the past seven years, where everyone knew me, and where my father was everyone's pediatrician, and began a three-year stint at Newark Academy, a private school in Livingston, NJ.

NA was a horrible place. At least for me it was. The school itself was beautifully appointed, and the education was decent. (I particularly recall Ms. Galvin's English class and Mr. Ball's World Cultures class with fondness.) But the kids at NA were fucking evil. A mix of mostly Jewish and Italian children of wealthy North Jersey families -- including the son and daughter of Sen. Frank Lautenberg, and Steven Polaner, scion of the famous jam-making family -- they were caricatures of the sort of malicious types we've come to know
in teen flicks like "Heathers" and "Mean Girls." (I should point out here that neither the Lautenbergs nor Polaner ever did anything mean to me. They just exemplified the level of hoity-toityness of the school.)

This was 1984. Reagan was president, Bill Cosby's new sitcom was premiering, and MTV was all the rage. Everyone was wearing day-glo and parachute pants and spiky hair. And here I was, in alligator shirts, cuffed khakis and penny-loafers with pennies in them. "The Preppy Handbook" was my bible, and my favorite music was Broadway, soft rock and oldies. (I particularly enjoyed Christopher Cross's hit song, "Sailing.") I was very gay and very loud; and I loved to sing.

A recipe for disaster, indeed.

The trouble really started in gym class (surprise, surprise), when I was standing around one day getting ready to play basketball, at which I was absolutely terrible. Amit Mehta, a tiny wise-ass of Indian descent who was inexplicably the most popular kid in class that year, asked me what I liked to do for fun.

"I like to sing!" I proclaimed, like some retarded kid in an after-school special.

"Oh yeah," said Amit, his eyes glowing. "Why don't you sing something for us?"

A small crowd had gathered.

"What do you want me to sing?"

He thought for a brief moment. "How about you sing, 'Rock of Ages?'"

Now remember, I was clueless when it came to pop music. For all I knew, Def Leppard was some unfortunate feline, growling off-key in the jungles of Africa. But I knew a song called "Rock of Ages;" we sang it every Chanukkah at Temple Sinai.

So I began to sing, in my pitch-perfect castrato soprano voice:

Rock of Ages, Let our song
Praise your saving power
You amid the raging foes
Were our sheltering tower
Furious they assailed us
But your arm availed us
And your word broke their sword
When our own strength failed us
And your word broke their sword
When our own strength failed us

Even today, this record makes me cry.

At this point, every person in the gymnasium had stopped to listen to my performance, including the gym teacher, Mr. Sweet. And every one of them was rolling with laughter.

Things went downhill from there.

But as awful as that and subsequent gym classes were, they didn't compare to the single biggest horror I faced every morning:

The Bus.

Through the years I've told stories of my 7th grade morning bus ride to Newark Academy, and people always assume I'm exaggerating, misremembering, or making up tales out of whole cloth. I assure you, these things happened exactly as I describe them. Prisoners of war don't forget the details of their captivity, and neither will I forget the atrocities that took place on that little yellow torture chamber on wheels.

Wheels on fire...

*Note: The above image is copywrited and comes from this web site.

Over the course of that year, on my way to school, I was




Repeatedly called a "faggot."

The recipient of gum stuck in my hair and rubber bands shot at my face.

And, on one memorable occasion, pelted with snowballs.

Wait a minute, you say; how in the world does one get pelted with snowballs inside a bus? To comprehend that scenario, you first have to understand that it wasn't only the kids on the bus -- among them Eddie Case and his demented older brother Dan, Chuck Spinner, Andrew Hazen and Ned Zimmerman, who looked exactly as I imagined the humanized pigs we read about in "Animal Farm" in Ms. Galvin's class did -- who hated me. No, it was also the bus driver, a giant black man named William who, when he wasn't driving a bus, worked as a minister.

That's right, a minister. It's no wonder I have such warm feelings toward organized religion.

Anyway, Rev. William was hardly a responsible adult figure. He often led the taunting that was aimed at me. Once, during a relatively peaceful moment, the discussion turned to what everyone was going to be when they grew up.

"What about Sank?" Eddie Case wondered.

"He'll be a gay writer," came the booming reply from the driver's seat.

Look, I'm not saying the man was imperceptive; I'm just saying he was a dick.

One unlucky aspect of my morning bus ride was that I was one of the last kids picked up. This meant having to make something of a grand entrance each day, with my tormentors already seated. (To this day, the walk onto a stage is the most terrifying part of performing for me. I always expect someone in the crowd is going to hurl a projectile at my head.)

Then, it happened: A major snowstorm of the kind we used to get fairly regularly in Jersey in the days before global warming. Eight or 10 inches fell, and we got a snow day from school, which was heaven on earth. The next morning, with school back in session, the bus pulled up to my house. Wearily, with my head slumped in its customary bus-boarding fashion, I took my seat... and was suddenly struck simultaneously with multiple sensations of pain, wetness and cold.

For little did I know that moments before, the good reverend had stopped the bus around the corner and ordered everyone off to build snowballs, all of which were to be used on me.

Do you have any idea how much snowballs hurt when launched at close range?

It didn't end after the initial attack. William stopped the bus repeatedly on the way to school so that my assailants could refuel. By the time I got to school, I was completely soaked and bleeding from the face.

It was then -- and only then -- that the school decided to act. William was fired, and I was moved to another bus, one that ferried kids to and from nearby Chatham. Curiously, despite my notoriety, the Chatham riders showed little interest in me, and for the rest of the year I rode to school in blissful silence.

Meanwhile, things at school remained tough for me. I had no friends, except for Kelley Wade, a homely fellow outcast with whom I did theater. The taunting and teasing continued. One day, Will Clossey and Mark Browin decided to imitate the way I walked down the hall. This entailed their swinging their asses wildly from side to side. Which I find interesting, given that Mark and I ended up blowing each other on a ski trip a year later. I hope Mark is married now, and I hope he and his wife are reading this together.

Despite the constant slings and arrows, I remained determined to win people over, and, in my overly dramatic, narcissistic super-gay way, I decided the best way to do it:

I was going to sing "Corner of the Sky" from "Pippin" in front of the entire school at morning meeting.

Look, I'm not going to deny I was a fucked up little kid. I had absolutely no social skills. I sat in my room all night listening to the cast albums of "Evita" and "Sweeney Todd," for God's sake.

But there was method to my madness. Students often got up at morning meeting to play an instrument, recite a poem or act out a skit. I knew I could sing well, and I knew that on some level, even in a shark tank like Newark Academy, people had respect for those with talent.

Plus, I thought (and this is the really sad part), if they would just listen to these lyrics come out of my mouth, they'd understand everything about me:

Everything has its season
Everything has its time
Show me a reason, and I'll soon show you a rhyme
Cats fit on the window sill
Children fit in the snow
Why do I feel I don't fit in anywhere I go?
Rivers belong where they can ramble
Eagles belong where they can fly
I've got to be... where my spirit can run free
Gotta find my corner of the sky

Word soon got out about my morning meeting plans. The entire grade was abuzz, fueled by my infamous "Rock of Ages" performance in gym class. "You're going to make a huge ass of yourself, Sank" became a familiar refrain. The anticipation grew to such a fevered pitch that the night before my big day, my advisor, Miss Belyea, called my parents.

"I don't think he should do it," she told my mom. "I think it's only going to make things harder for him."

My mom agreed and tried to get me to change my mind. But it was too late. If I backed out now, everyone would know I was chicken. And in any situation, I've always chosen the riskier option.

Dr. Strand, the headmaster (a dear man who I hope is still alive and well), finished his morning announcements and then introduced me.

"We have a special treat this morning," he said. "One of our youngest students, Adam Sank, is going to sing for us."

With legs shaking, I took the stage. It hadn't occurred to me to ask anyone to accompany me on the piano, so it was just me up there, singing a capella, facing about 800 students and faculty.

I began about three keys too high:
Everything has its season
Everything has its time
Show me a reason...

My voice had cracked, horribly.
Show me a reason...

Nope, too high.

"Excuse me," I said. I could hear people twittering.

Then I began again, in a more comfortable key.
Everything has its season
Everything has its time...
This time I got through it. I hit all the notes. My voice swelled on the last chorus, and I went up the octave on the final note, just as William Katt had done on the record.

People clapped and cheered. I bowed. It was over.

If this were a young adult's novel or an episode of "The Brady Bunch," the story would end with my being carried on the shoulders of throngs of adoring kids, chanting, "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow."

Well, that didn't happen. But there was, after my big song, a perceptible shift in the way I was treated at NA. People still thought I was a faggy lunatic, and I still didn't have a lot of friends. But there was a grudging respect for me, if not for the fact that I could sing, then for the fact that I had had the balls to get up in front of the entire school and sing a Broadway show tune.

I learned that day that no matter how hard it is being me sometimes, it's easier than not being me.

It's been 24 years since then, and I still try to remember that every day.

Homo out.

Come see me host the Electro Shock Therapy Comedy Hour this Sunday, April 20, when my special guests will be Laurie Kilmartin, Mike Gaffney, Vicki Ferentinos and Tom Ragu.
Details on
my web site.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Leggo My Preggo

First thing's first:

I got a mohawk.

Or perhaps it's a faux hawk. You decide.

I know it's ridiculous and that I'm way too old for such a thing, but I have to say: I'm kind of loving it.

Pee Wee Herman meets Satan.

Ever since I got it last Saturday, I've been noticing countless others walking down the street with mohawks, faux hawks and other bizarre follicular creations. It's as if everyone decided at once to go hair-crazy.

My favorite comment so far came from one of the editors I work with, who sent me the following email when I got into work on Monday:

What's up, Tintin?

In case you don't know Tintin, he's a Belgian cartoon character known for his shock of hair and his little dog, Snowy. My parents actually once got me an English-language-version Tintin comic book when I was little. I don't know if something was lost in translation, but that was the most boring goddamn comic I've ever read. I actually used to read it whenever I couldn't sleep, and it would knock me out like a tab of Seconal.

Speaking of doing strange things to one's appearance, I want to comment on the whole "pregnant man" story making headlines lately.

I could do without the bushy armpits. Manscape, dude!

I get that it's sensational. I get that it captures people's interest. But -- and maybe I'm just a jaded, bleeding-heart liberal Manhattan 'mo -- I honestly don't understand what the big deal is. And I'm frankly shocked by the level of ignorance I've been seeing with regard to the story, even among members of the gay community.

Let me break it down for you people, for what it's worth:

He was born a woman.

He became a man but kept his female reproductive organs.

He was artificially inseminated and is now pregnant.

End of story.

Is this really so difficult to grasp? Stranger reproductive things happen all the time. Women take fertility drugs and have sextuplets, for God's sake. SIX BABIES COME OUT OF ONE WOMAN!! DOGS ARE SUPPOSED TO HAVE SIX BABIES, NOT WOMEN!! And yet people are shocked -- SHOCKED! -- that a transgender man can have a baby.

This morning I accidentally tuned in to "The Morning Show With Mike and Juliet" on Fox. If there's ever been a more pointless show, I haven't seen it. All morning chat shows are insipid by nature, but "Mike and Juliet" makes "Regis and Kelly" look like "The McLaughlin Group."

Could we be more pointless?

In fairness, it's not Mike and Juliet's fault. I worked with them at Fox News and liked them both quite a bit. Juliet Huddy's a sweetie -- friendly and unpretentious -- and Mike Jerrick can be genuinely funny, given the right format. (I actually think he'd make a decent late-night host.)

But their morning show is the pits. It's horribly produced and jumps from topic to topic with such aimless abandon that the result is viewer seasickness.

Anyway, this morning their guests were Geraldo Rivera and Jeanine Pirro, who discussed the pregnant man story with the seriousness and maturity level of a couple of 5th graders.

"That kid's gonna be born, and he's gonna be like, 'Ahhhhhh!,'" quipped Geraldo, whose recent career has been distinguished by his giving away troop movements in Iraq and shoving a rescue worker after Hurricane Katrina. (And by the way, I also worked with him at Fox, line producing his live shots from the control room, and I can tell you unequivocally: He is a complete and total buffoon.)

"What I want to know is," kept insisting harpie Pirro, who is currently under federal criminal investigation for allegedly hiring New York's former police commissioner to illegally eavesdrop on her philandering husband, "Is this is a man or a woman?! Is this a man or a woman? If she has female productive organs, she's a woman!"

"Yeah," agreed Geraldo. "She's like, expanding her... whatever. Next thing you know she'll have giant earlobes."

The studio audience found this hilarious. I didn't get it.

'Hello, I'm Geraldo Rivera. And my mustache smells like cheese.'

I think a large part of the problem stems from people's general confusion about gender and sexuality (which, by the way, are two completely different things). So here, as a public service message, is a little glossary:

Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual: Having a sexual and/or romantic attraction to people of the same gender, some or all of the time. I fall into this category. I'm a man. I like my penis. If it were bigger, I'd like it even more. I do not and have not ever wanted to be a woman. (Though I did at times enjoy dressing up as one as a child. See Transvestite, below.)

Transgender: A person whose biological gender does not match their gender identity. (Also called "transsexual," but most prefer "transgender" or simply "trans.") A male-to-female transgender, for example, is born with male sex organs but chooses to live as a woman. These people may or may not elect surgery or hormone therapy to physically alter their gender. Trans people may identify as straight, gay or bi. If female-to-male transgender dates women, for example, he'd probably consider himself straight. (Note: "Tranny" or "Trannie," a gay slang word popularized by fashion designer Christian Siriano on the latest season of "Project Runway," can refer either to a Transgender Person or a Drag Queen, see below. As in, "She's a hot tranny mess!")

Intersex: Those born without a fixed gender. These people used to be called hermaphrodites, but that is WAY politically incorrect these days. Intersex people may be born with both male and female external genitals, or they may have genitals that don't match their sex chromosomes (i.e., an XX man or an XY woman). In the old days, the prevailing medical protocol was to have the parents choose a gender (!) for the child at birth, and then surgically alter the genitals (!!) accordingly. The child would then be raised as either a girl or boy. Nowadays there's a strong belief that intersex people have a right to choose their own gender (or no gender) as they see fit, and that their genitals should be left alone. Again, their sexual orientation can be all over the map. They may like men, women, other intersex folks or all of the above. Incidentally, there's a long-standing rumor that Jamie Lee Curtis is an XY woman, though it's never been proven.

She does sort of look like Dennis Quaid in drag. Speaking of drag...

Drag Queen: A man, usually gay (but not always! Look at Milton Berle and Dame Edna!), who dresses in over-the-top, hyper-stereotypical female clothing, hair and makeup, usually for entertainment purposes. Ru Paul is probably the most famous and successful drag queen ever. (I don't count Berle, who was more famous as an overall TV personality.) Most drag queens don't dress in drag in their everyday life. It's a costume -- something that's done for laughs and/or career. A woman who dresses in drag as a man is called a Drag King.

Transvestite/Cross-Dresser: A person, usually a man, who derives thrills (often sexual) from dressing in clothing of the opposite sex. These people are not drag queens; you're more likely to see them in the grocery story than on a stage. And they're usually not gay. In fact, many men who dress in women's clothes do so because the clothing reminds them of women. It's a turn-on for them. Though not so much for me.

Queer: A catch-all term that can be applied to all of the above (except transvestites). I'm not fond of the word, being of the last generation for whom it was always considered derogatory. But the gay kids today seem to like it. "Queer Theory" is an accepted academic discipline at many colleges and universities.

The Bottom Line: Not everyone fits into neat categories of male or female, straight or gay.

Deal with it.

Thus ends my public service announcement for the day.

Hey, if you happen to be in the South Jersey area this weekend, come check me out at the following event, which I'm hosting:

Saturday, April 5th at 8:30pm
Diversity Weekend at Carney's On the Beach
401 Beach Avenue
Cape May, NJ

Or come see me host...

Sunday, April 6th at 10:00pm
Special Guests: Rachel Feinstein, Jay Nog, Adrienne Iapalucci, Reese Waters, Chris Doucette
348 West 52nd Street
No Cover Charge, No Drink Minimum.

Non-Tranny Homo Out.