Monday, July 26, 2010

New York Invasion Pt 7 - Comedy Club

What’s staying in the Big Apple if I cannot exercise my right to indulge in commercial tourism, which should always include a shameless pose with landmarks, preferably made popular by famous figures in history like, Carrie Bradshaw and the cast of Friends – complete with a 'victory’ pose just to bold my Asian heritage.

From my place on 47th and 7th Ave, I am a pawn in the greater commercial capital known as Times Square, made famous by TRL and many other Hollywood movies that included mass murders, catastrophic meteor strikes and couple of forgettable romance plots.

Now, the amazing thing about Times Square is that you are encapsuled in a concrete mass of gigantic illuminated billboards and force fed with thousands of brands that light up the city centre enough for you to still need sunglasses at midnight – and a tan if you are really lucky.

And right in the midst of millions of commuters rubbing shoulders on walkways, you have a myriad of people trying to sell tickets for anything from comedy clubs, to strip joints, bus tours, right down to probably a sale of immigrants.

You have your busking guild of caricature painters, graffiti rebels, jugglers that might have more credentials if they juggled with toddlers instead and the occasional Hulk body doubles doing workouts against traffic lights.

And so I succumbed to the thought of being tickled by stand up comedians, after all, this was the very country that gave us, famous comedians like Jerry Seinfeld and Homer Simpson. What could go wrong?

The Comedy Club.

It was a simple concept. 2 hour, 6 comedians, 2 rounds of drinks and an overpriced cover charge. If it was anything like what I’ve seen on YouTube, then I was expecting to be in stitches rolling on the floor in pain because my appendix ruptured from all that laughing.

But no. This was like walking into church hoping for a sermon and you find Ozzy Osbourne staging a wet t-shirt contest for transsexuals.

The only thing that prevented me from walking out was the USD$40 dollar cover charge and the promise to down a shot of tequila every time the comedian sucked. The only problem with this was that in the US, a shot of alcohol is about 2 and a half times a regular shot back here and the tequila was so bad, I thought it was mouth wash.

The first act was pretty decent and I would have smiled if I wasn’t so bittered by the tequila. It had all the right elements of what comedy should be; exaggerated facial spasms, vulgarities, racism and laughing at poor people.

Then it all went down hill, like the Euro, to a point where I had no idea what the comic on stage was actually saying. It was like he had a serious case of Tourette’s, either severely short-tongued or had a dick in his mouth and half the time it looked like he was fighting with his shadow. He was so horrible, he would make a mute sound like the funniest man in the world.

By then, we were already 4 shots of tequila deep and there was no way I was going to stomach a fifth. I was going to cheer and laugh my ass off even if he starts insulting Mother Teressa.

For all aspiring comics, I have an advice for you. Crowd cues are important markers. When they chuckle, you know you had an okay joke. When they laugh, you know it’s a good one and you can recycle it, unless you are in a wheel-chair, then it could just be sympathy laughs or that they are laughing at you.

Now, when there is an awkward silence, it’s the cue for you to slit your wrist, because in some cultures, dying is actually funny. If you are on stage for a 15min set and half of your punch-lines end in enough silence to hear an iPhone vibrating from across the room, then it’s time to re-think that offer as a waiter.

The last comic that went up was so boring or maybe he only contrived materials for a 3 second set, that he spent half the time in silence, or maybe he was waiting for a crowd response or just maybe it was the tequila that forfeited my hearing.

I was going to cheer for him as well, until the waitress came over to inform us that they had ran out of tequila, which amused me even more than he did.

Me: “You ran out of tequila?”
She: “Yeah, well we don’t really carry stock because quite honestly, no one drinks it here. It’s horrible.”

I booed him, along with the rest of the crowd.

Empire State Building.

I went up when I was already inebriated, because it was the only way I was going to step onto a platform King Kong was shot down from. I hate heights.

World Trade Centre Memorial.

What’s being in Manhattan if you don’t visit Ground Zero, the infamous grave of 3000 souls that lost their lives on September 11. I’ve seen videos of it and the photos and stories plastered on the walls are honestly heart-wrenching.

There was even this huge wall with all the names of people who perished in the attack.

D: “What are you looking for?”
Me: “Chinese people.”
D: “
How are you going to find it amongst all that names?”
Me: “It’s easy, I’m starting at T for Tan, then I’m moving to L for Lee. We Chinese aren’t too creative when it comes to last names.”

Brooklyn Bridge.

On the 6th day I was in New York, I attempted to walk the Brooklyn Bridge. The only thing that hindered my magnificent feat of tourist imperative, was the weather. It started raining and I ended up getting stuck below the flyover between Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge, along with the rest of the homeless people.

I have never been more afraid of my life since the turbulence, until now.

When I finally re-attempted it a week and a half later, I realized that it wasn’t about being on the bridge or conquering it that was rewarding. It was actually knowing that by walking back, I was getting further from Brooklyn with every step that made me smile.

And now that I’m back in Singapore, I guess I do miss it back there. Even if I risk getting shot..

Thursday, July 08, 2010

New York Invasion Pt 6 - Strip Club

Com’on! We are in New York! You have to come to the strip clubs!”

And there I was standing, with a cigarette in hand and a night breeze that was coaxing me to run for a hot shower or at least to go grab my jacket. But even without it, I was covered in my All Asian glory. Now, certainly they do realize that I am Asian, and that nothing they will have in a New York Strip club will rival what we have in Asia.

Me: “I’m from Asia. The clubs we have back home will make this look like a Catholic Kindergarten.”

Last I checked, there wasn’t a strip club here that had dancers capable of keeping three live fishes in their very special lady area, neither could they smoke a cigarette nor shoot darts with it and no, they certainly are not capable of turning water to Coke.

It wasn’t that they were persuasive enough, but it was after all New York, and I found it distressing that I was lobbying against something that had naked women dancing in front of me. I was not going to risk catching a homosexuality bug when I’m abroad – it’s an airborne disease, people just don’t realize it -, so I decided to cure it with a lap dance.

The thing about the strip clubs is that there really is a certain classiness built into them. I don’t know if it’s the low light and plush cushions or the absence of the proverbial neon lit centre stage. The music is sexy, loungey, nothing like the techno beats that Bangkok has concocted so you see dancers actually dancing and not look like they are in epileptic shock.

The ambience is almost relaxing in contrast to the stark impact of walking into an Agogo bar and wondering if you are either going to get pregnant from seating down on their sofas or catch syphilis from using their toilet paper.

We got in and they seated the eight of us in what would be considered the best seats in the house, which would mean in the middle, with a panoramic view of all dancers on any stage, giving maximum expose of topless time. The only thing better than this, would be a 52 inch LCD screen equipped with a Playstation.

It was typically pitch dark as what you would expect of a strip joint, with the only credible lighting coming from the stages and the illuminated menu holders on the table. This cloak of darkness was everyone’s best bet on privacy, so you won’t be walking in to spot your neighbor or boss gawking away at silicon.

I can’t say that strip clubs are a shameless activity to engage in because it’s a male rite of passage that will certify you as a normal heterosexual male and you can take solace that the lap dance you are paying for is going to some kids school fees or a Gucci bag – it’s good both ways. It’s a male centric activity that might not be as productive as playing Texas Hold’em, but it is infinity more exciting than golf.

The place was decently packed with what I am assuming to be either working professionals or waiters from a posh Italian restaurant. Young, neatly dressed and definitely capable of having an erection, while the eight of us came with an appetite for great expectations and I certainly was hoping for a magic show.

Franz takes out his phone and starts punching away with texts. Almost immediately, this huge ass security guy comes over so quickly, I thought there was buffet at our table. I’ve never seen fat people move so quickly otherwise.

Security: “No phones.”

Franz tucks the cell phone back into his pocket and then starts typing away again as he leaves. Instantaneously, another security spots it and he comes charging over.

Security2: “Hey! Put that away. We are not going to tell you again.”

This other guy was huge. He was built like a tank and looked like he could bench press Mount Everest, crush a Picanto with his bare hands and eat both an elephant and Moses Lim for breakfast. He is not someone you want to get thrown out by because you could land in Alaska if he puts in effort on his throw.

Franz being European, either does not take well to authority and rules, or he has been beaten up by the Hulk before, because he does not give a shit about verbal warnings. As soon as the second guy turns, he starts taking out his phone again.

Me: “You do know that using phones here is not permitted right?”
Franz: “So what? What’s he going to do?”

Well, I had a million thoughts about what could happen and about 90% of that included serious bodily harm, loss of dignity, humiliation and wasting my $20 drink because my face will be planted to the floor outside the club. Obviously, he couldn’t think of a single one, so I decided to shut up and not share my thoughts on consequences with him.

Then it happened.

Security2: “Hey man, I ain’t playin’ wit you. You are going to put that away or I am going to have to ask all you gentlemen to leave.”

Everyone turns to Franz with enough frown to put a wrinkle on Teflon frying pan. No-one apparently understood what was more important than watching topless ladies dance on podiums.

Allan: “Dude, just put your phone away. It’s a fucking strip club, they hate phones.”
Franz: “See, I told you he’s not going to do anything?”

Like really? He had to pick a time and place like this and a person like that security guy to prove a point? He couldn’t have waited till we’ve had our drinks or ready to leave? Or at least when I’m out having a smoke? There is a time and place for proving a point, it’s called Myth Busters. I just want to go home alive.

The others pay no attention to him and start scanning the room for strippers. The general rule is that customers are not allowed to touch the strippers when they are giving a lap dance – apparently it violates a moral code, wow, who would have thought.

So imagine the absurdity of it. We are paying for some girl to be dancing topless – which they already are doing in the first place – in close proximity for your breaths to touch them, but not your nose, or any part of you, except your dollar bill. What is the point of it?

I see more sense in investing my money in Viet Dongs than this. You are paying $25 for a lap dance, when in some countries not only might this get you a bride, but you also get to inherit her disabled parents.

Stripper: “Hey honey, would you like a lap dance?”
Me: “How much is it?”
Stripper: “$25 for one dance.”
Me: “How much do I have to pay if I’m Asian?”
Stripper: “It’s still $25.”
Me: “Is there a discount? I have a much smaller body mass for you to dance around.”

She stopped talking to me after that for some unknown reason. I think it’s because she maxed out her Asian quota for the night, but it started a whole episode of us just accusing everyone of them to be racist.

Ro: “How much for a lap dance?”
Stripper2: “$25 per dance.”
Ro: “How come I’m paying the Asian rate? Are you racist?”

J: “How about I pay you $5.”
Stripper3: “The going rate here is $25.”
J: “How about a discount for your fellow countryman.”
Stripper: “Are you from Ukraine?”
J: “Are you racist?”

Pretty much no one wanted to come over after word got out that we were pretty much just messing around with them, which was a good thing because other than one dancer who was legitimately hot, the others looked like they would look a lot better with clothes on.

Allen: “Hey guys, sorry that this place turned out this bad tonight. The girls are usually way better than this.”

Me: “It’s okay. I’ve seen a girl pull razor blades out her vagina in Bangkok. There is nothing that is going to beat that traumatic experience here.”

Pepe looked at me in disbelief. He didn’t have a steady gait and the vodka was kicking in, but it looked like he was combating inebriation to hear something as ludicrous as pulling razors out of a vagina.

Oh yes, and that’s not all they pull out. They can keep live fishes in there, shoot darts, smoke faster than a Marlboro man can and open bottle caps with their vagina so quickly that you know they always have a job behind the bar when all else fails or sags. It’s like a magic show that will make David Blaine look like a clown at a children’s party.

Me:One time, this girl sucked up a bottle of water with a straw in her pussy, and she spit back Coke into an empty bottle.”


Pepe starts throwing up on the floor as soon as I finish my story.

Pepe: “Now I am never going to drink Coke.”