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..

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