IPHONE MADNESS IN NEW YORK CITY!
I just got reprimanded by a sidewalk fundraiser in Union Square. There are lots of good things about working in Union Square: plenty of places to pay $10 for a lunchtime salad, a lovely park that is only partially occupied by creepy homeless people and millions of square feet of prime, soul-crushing, fluorescently illuminated, chain-store retail!Yes, life is good in Union Square. Except for the sidewalk fundraisers.On any given day, teams of fresh-faced, clipboard-carrying college students descend upon unsuspecting office workers as they venture out of their buildings for a cigarette, lunch or to purchase coffee from one of the three(!) Starbucks locations conveniently located in the neighborhood.I can’t tell you what charitable causes these adorable youngsters are hawking, because (until today) I had never actually spoken to one of them. Usually I will just cross the street to avoid them.
This is a good strategy, unless I get hit by a bus. Wouldn’t that be an unfortunate development? To get run over by an MTA bus, die, go to Heaven, and then have to tell St. Peter that I was only there because I didn’t want to donate to charity? Somehow I don't think that would help my case with ole' St. Pete. One time I saw a cute young woman in a bright yellow t-shirt with a clipboard heading right toward me on 14th Street. I tried to avoid her, but it was too late.“Do you have a moment for gay rights?” she asked me, with bright eyes and all the optimism and enthusiasm a 19-year-old can muster.How am I supposed to answer a question like that?If I say"no," I’m a homophobe. If I say "yes," then I am going to have to listen to a whole spiel about how gay people need our help, like the blacks did back in Selma back in ’65. Blah blah blah. Inevitably, it will be my donation that will finally save the gays from generations of discrimination at the hands of evil white men like Dick Cheney. If I will just pull out my checkbook, everything will be okay! So I just ignored her. I wasn’t proud of my lack of wit. Usually I would hit her with a snappy comeback like, “Do I have a moment for gay rights? Sure I do, if you have a moment to fuck my girlfriend while I watch. That's the kind of gay rights that I support!”But I didn’t say that, or anything. Until today.I had gone out for my daily pilgrimage to Medina, the little café on 17th Street where I pay $6.50 for a cup of soup. I was about to re-enter my building on Fifth Avenue when two, blue-shirted college kids (a white guy and an Asian girl) jumped in front of me.“Do you have a moment for the environment?” the curly-headed young man said, as he and the girl blocked my progress on the sidewalk.“I’m sorry,” I replied. “I don’t speak English.”They both looked at me with blank-faced, silent confusion as I made my way to the door of my building. Then I noticed the guy – I mean, the boy – racing after me.“Excuse me, sir. Excuse me,” he said as he headed toward me. "This is a very demanding job. We’ve been out here for five hours and it’s very taxing and…”I looked at his face as he spoke. He upper lip was beaded with sweat and quivering with anger. This was the breaking point for him. And I had brought him to it. But it was impossible to be scared, because he was so adorable. He looked like he was going to cry.“Listen kid,” I said to him. “You gotta toughen up a little bit. And if you’re going to ask New Yorkers to hand you money out of the kindness of their hearts, you gotta have a sense of humor about it.” I hoped he would leave it at that, and perhaps thank me for my perspective and wisdom, but he chose not to.“Yeah, but, we don’t need to be made fun of,” he protested. “We’ve been out here for five hours…”At that point I waved my hand, like Caesar, and dismissed him. Then I got on the elevator and headed back to work.I’m sure my little friend looked like a hero to his cute little Asian partner-in-fundraising-crime. If he had any sense in his head, he would leverage that into some kind of sexual favors.But then again, if he had any sense in his head, he wouldn’t be standing on the street asking New Yorkers for money.
THAT MOVIE MADE ME "SICKO"
Last night I saw Michael Moore's new movie, and it made me very nervous.Sicko is an expose of the healthcare industry in the United States, but it's also a condemnation of the American system of consumerism, excessive debt and for-profit medicine. And it's enough to make you sick.If you don't have health coverage, see Sicko to remind yourself of the sharp guillotine that swings just above your neck each day.
And if you think you have an airtight benefits package, Sicko may just convince you that you're not as insured as you thought you were.Either way, we're screwed. Have a nice day.
ME AND EDDIE MUNSTER
I love old movies and TV shows.
I grew up in the 1970s watching TV shows from the '50s and '60s and movies from the '30s and '40s. And these habits continue today.
As a kid, one of my favorite shows was The Munsters, the 1964-1966 CBS sitcom about a family of domesticated monsters who live in the suburbs.
Unlike a lot of the TV classics that I enjoyed when I was growing up, The Munsters remains one of my favorites. The writing is strong, the performances are iconic and the show is just as much fun to watch on TV Land today as it was after school so many years ago.
Sadly, in the last year and a half, two of the stars of The Munsters have left this world for TV Heaven: Al Lewis, who played the Dracula-esque Grandpa, in February of 2006 and Yvonne DeCarlo, who played matriarch Lily Munster, on January 8 of this year. (The brilliant comic actor Fred Gwynne, who played Herman, died of pancreatic cancer back in 1993.)
That leaves only two original cast members of The Munsters who have not yet shuffled off the mortal coil. And this weekend I got a chance to meet one of them: Butch Patrick, who portrayed junior werewolf Eddie Munster.
Like many former child stars, Butch Patrick appears to make much of his current living from his past life on television. He operates a website where he sells Munsters-related paraphernalia and t-shirts and he makes appearances at memorabilia, horror and comic book conventions.
On Sunday, Maggie and I met Butch at the Big Apple Comic Book Convention, on 7th Avenue, across the street from Penn Station here in New York City.
I had been to this Expo once before, to meet Yvonne Craig, the actress who played Batgirl in the Batman TV series of the 1960s. Meeting Yvonne was exciting and nostalgic, but my interaction with Butch Patrick was memorable for entirely different reasons.
Maggie and I arrived at the show at just after 4 PM, and made our way to the admission desk at the Penn Plaza Pavilion, where we paid our $11 entrance fee. The table was "manned" by two tomboyish young women with short haircuts -- one of whom was dressed as a storm trooper from Star Wars.
As I pulled out my wallet, the stormtrooper asked us why we were late.
"Were you guys at the parade?" she asked, meaning the Gay Pride parade.
It struck me as an odd question to ask a man and woman arriving together, but whatever. Even when I'm with a pretty girl, people still think I'm gay.
We got upstairs to the convention area and noticed that many of the vendors had already begun to dismantle their booths. I feared that maybe we had missed our shot to meet Eddie Munster!
We raced over to the autograph area, and there he was. Even though he was more than four decades older than the last time I had seen him, I knew exactly who he was.
Butch was standing up, behind a table stacked high with 8'x10' photos. On the wall behind him was a black, white and red banner that read Meet Butch Patrick in bloody red lettering. The banner was hung up with brown packing tape.
We walked over to his table and he looked me right in the eye.
"Hey," he said, as if we had met before. "Is this you?" Maggie asked, pointing to a cast photo on the table with a very young looking Eddie.
"Yeah, that was a press shot that we did before we started shooting," Butch Patrick replied mater-of-factly. "I was younger than I was in the show."
"Okay, wait a minute," I thought to myself. "We're standing here talking to Eddie Munster. This is a big deal."
So I interrupted Maggie's chatty small talk and introduced myself."Hi. I'm Will McKinley. I've been a big fan for many years," I said to the nearly 54 year-old man who will forever remain 11 years old in my mind.
Butch was wearing a Munsters t-shirt, filled in with a bit of middle age paunch, and the same pug face that, even at age 11, bore a striking resemblance to original Wolfman Lon Chaney Jr.
Maggie and I gushed about how we grew up watching The Munsters, and how we were enjoying it again on TV Land.
"You should really get the DVDs," Butch said. "They have the full 24 minute episodes, un-cut. Sometimes on TV Land they cut them down to like 18 minutes." I asked Butch if he appeared in any of the DVD special features, perhaps in a commentary track or interview. He told me that he did not. "After the success of the first season set, they were supposedly going to pay us to do some things for the second season box," he said. "But that never happened." Maggie and I each selected a picture from the assortment on the table, and Butch autographed each one. Then he posed for a picture with me.
"It's a great pleasure to meet you," I said, as I shook his hand."Thanks," he replied.
If only that was where our interaction had ended. But it wasn't."And now I have to ask you for money," Butch added, after our handshake.Now, I've been to enough autograph shows to know how things work. Not only do you pay an admission charge to the show, you also pay for the individual autograph of each celebrity. It's an unfortunate situation, but it is a reality.
I wished I had just offered the money, or asked what the fee was at the beginning of our interaction. In retrospect, I should not have put him in the position where he had to ask us for money. But, unfortunately, that's not the way it happened."It's normally $20 each, but we'll say $30 for both of you," Butch said to us, as I pulled out my wallet.My first instinct was to question his discount, and to throw in the extra ten bucks as a tip -- a thank you for the more than 30 years of enjoyment that I have gotten from his work. But then it occurred to me that I did not want to be put in that position; I don't want to have to attach a financial value to significant popular cultural touchstones in my life. We said our goodbyes, did a bit of browsing at the other tables and then left the building. As Maggie and I were heading toward the subway entrance on 7th Avenue and 33rd Street, we ran into Butch Patrick again."Take it easy," the actor who played Eddie Munster said to us, as he headed back into the Pavilion wearing a black leather jacket and a friendly smile. I wanted to apologize to Butch for forcing him to ask me for money. I wanted to thank him for all the pleasure that I have gotten from a job he did for two years, more than four decades ago. But I didn't. I just waved back at him.
"It was great to meet you," I said. And it was.
Even though I had just met him, I felt like I had known him my entire life.
On Saturday night Maggie and I went to Shea Stadium to watch the Mets play the Oakland A's.It was an exciting game, but we almost didn't make it. As we were getting ready to leave from her downtown apartment, Maggie asked me to help her with something in the bedroom. Of course I agreed, because that's the kind of guy I am. I ended up helping her over and over again, and we sort of lost track of time. By the time we were both finished helping each other, it was after 6 PM. The game was beginning in a little more than an hour, and we still had to make the long trip out to Flushing. So I ran out and headed for the subway, while Maggie finished getting ready. I got to the game in the second inning, which wasn't so bad. Maggie didn't make it until the 4th.I think this marks the first time in 30 years that I have ever been late to a Mets game, but at least I had a good reason.It didn't really matter that we were late, because all of the action happened at the end. In the bottom of the ninth inning. Mets catcher Ramon Castro led off with a double, Carlos Beltran was issued an intentional walk and then David Wright -- the favorite of millions of shrieking, beer-swilling female Mets fans -- drove Castro home with the winning run.It was an exciting climax to what had been a great game, resulting in an ejaculation of cheering from the 42,000+ fans in attendance. It was a happy ending for everyone, and those who came felt great!Particularly the Mets players, who enjoyed their second victory in two days.I also enjoyed something two days in a row, but that's a story for another day.
NELLIE AND ME
Last night I met Alison Arngrim, the actress who played Nellie Oleson on Little House on the Prairie. Alison was performing her show Confessions of a Prairie Bitch at The Cutting Room, a cabaret on 24th Street.Alison is a pretty cool chick. Her show is funny, her comic timing is sharp and the big crowd loved listening to her dish.I had interviewed her on the phone from Paris two weeks ago, and my story ran in last week's Chelsea Now and this week's edition of The Villager. Alison seemed happy with the interview, and she signed my copy -- in French!
AFI 100 GREATEST FILMS OF ALL TIME
Last night on CBS, Morgan Freeman hosted a retrospective celebration of the 100 greatest films of all time, selected by a group of 1,500 filmmakers, critics and historians.You can check out the list and a commentary on Roger Ebert's site.I'm proud to say that I've seen every film in the Top Ten (although I would argue that Schlinder's List is not one of the ten best films made in the last 100 years). As you go down the list, though, there are plenty of films that I have never seen. (My total is 64 out of 100.)I consider myself a movie buff, and if I haven't seen a third of the most respected films of all time, what about the average movie goer? The fact is, with the exception of the seven films released since 1990, the majority of these movies are relatively hard to find. Outside of Turner Classic Movies there is no broadcast or cable outlet where curious younger viewers can seek out great movies -- or any movies -- made before the mid-1980s. (For some reason 1985 seems to be the current line of demarcation between old and new movies, at least as far as cable TV is concerned.)The perfect solution to this dilemma would be a VOD (video on demand) service on digital cable, branded with the AFI 100 trademark, where all 100 of these terrific, culturally relevant and still vital films were made available at the click of a button.Doing this would require the partnership of all the major cable providers, plus the rights holders to each of the 100 films selected for inclusion on AFI's list. But it can be done.And in my opinion, is should be done. Right away. The fact that the 100 greatest pieces of work in the most distinctly American art form are receding into history is tragic!It's nice to make a list, and have a TV special, but unless you make it easy and convenient for people to find these great films, they won't do it. They will just allow their brains to rot watching the horrible, awful, stupid, unfunny, middle-of-the-road, artless dreck that runs over and over again on every major cable network in this country. Except TCM.AFI 100 On-Demand -- SOMEBODY PLEASE MAKE IT HAPPEN RIGHT NOW!
BLESS ME FATHER, FOR I HAVE SHOPPED
Greetings from Boston, where I am working on a the production of a large meeting for pharmaceutical sales reps.The event is at the Hynes Convention Center, and our crew is staying at a nearby hotel. The quickest route to the Convention Center from the hotel is through an upscale shopping mall called The Prudential Center, which is connected to the hotel by an enclosed foot bridge.That means that I could go back and forth to work every day without ever breathing fresh air -- hotel to mall to Convention Center and back again. This is a disturbing trend in our country - artificial environments. No good can come of it.Last night I make a point of walking outside on my way back to my hotel. And guess what? I walked right into a torrential downpour.The genius who came up with this evil strategy to trap conventioneers indoors in a shopping mall would probably consider my soaking wet body to be evidence of why controlled environments are preferable to uncontrolled.But I say pish posh!It's good to get wet. It's good to sweat, and have to dodge traffic when you cross a busy street. All of this reminds me that I'm alive. It keeps life interesting. And, maybe most importantly, it keeps me from walking through a shopping mall every day.I have always considered shopping malls to be the devil's playground -- until I came to Boston. But the Prudential Center actually has a church in it.
It's not a big church. It's a small chapel. But it's in a shopping mall -- right next to Dunkin' Donuts.
Why not just put it in the food court? Then you could enjoy your bread and wine -- the body and blood of Christ -- with an Auntie Anne's fresh pretzel and an all-natural smoothie from Jamba Juice. Not only is Jesus the King of the Jews, he's also the King of the Coffee Coolata!
Our Father who art next to Dunkin' Donuts.
MY INTERVIEW WITH FREDDIE ROMAN
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Freddie Roman, the legendary Borscht Belt comedian and longtime dean of the Friars Club. The seventy year-old comic was also the creator and star of Catskills on Broadway, the on-stage celebration of the region made famous by the movie Dirty Dancing.Freddie will be appearing, along with NPR's Scott Blakeman and comedian Brad Zimmerman, on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at the Museum of Jewish Heritage here in New York for an evening called Catskills on the Hudson.To read my interview with Freddie in this week's edition of Downtown Express, click here.
MY INTERVIEW WITH NELLIE OLESON
This week I had one of the great treats of my writing career so far.
I interviewed Alison Arngrim, the actress who played Nellie Oleson on Little House on the Prairie from 1974-1981.
Alison is now a stand-up comedian (of sorts), and she'll be bringing her provocatively-titled one-person show Confessions of a Prairie Bitch to the Cutting Room in Chelsea this Thursday and Friday at 7:30 PM.
In our phone conversation, Alison busted on celebrities past and present. And I hit on her. No kidding. I hit on Nellie Oleson. My life is now complete. If you've never bothered to read any of my print interviews, read this one. Click here.
THERE IS A NAKED WOMAN IN ONE OF THESE WINDOWS
Last night, while loitering on Maggie's balcony with a beer and a cigarette, I noticed something in one of the windows across the street.A woman had walked into view, wearing a white robe. Then she dropped the robe and began massaging lotion all over her body. Why she chose to do this in front of an open window, I'm not entirely sure. But I am appreciative.
Americans are way too uptight about nudity. In Europe, everybody is naked. Seriously. In some European countries they don't even make clothes. If you wear clothes people look at you funny.
The point is, most people understand that the human body is a beautiful thing, and that nudity is entirely natural and healthy. Except Americans.
CBS shows a flash of Janet Jackson's boob during the Super Bowl and there are Congressional hearings, a huge fine and a public outcry against "indencency."
How is this any different than the Taliban's Ministry of Vice and Virtue? Or of fatwas against women who breastfeed in public?
So, if you are a young* woman, please start rubbing lotion into your naked body in front of open windows. If you don't, then the terrorists win.
* Offer not valid for women over the age of 49 in New York and Los Angeles and 39 everywhere else.
Last night I cheated on my trainer. Erica, my pretty, raven-haired, Japanese trainer, told me last week that she was going on vacation.“I’m going to give your name to another trainer and she’ll call you to set up a session when I’m away," Erica told me.“Okay,” I replied. “As long as it’s a girl. I don’t like to work out with guy trainers. They intimidate me.”“I figured that,” she said. “So I gave your name to a girl named Summer.”“What does she look like?” I asked.Erica then described Summer to me like she was trying to set us up on a date. I half expected her to say something like, “What the fuck does it matter what she looks like?” or something equally girl-powerish, to combat the subtle male chauvinism of this whole exchange. But she didn’t. She described Summer to me in detail. She even used the word "cute."A few days later I got a message from Summer.“Hey Will, this is Summer. I’m subbing for Erica while she’s away and I just wanted to check in with you and see when you wanted to train this week. So give me a call when you get a minute.”The first thing I noticed was that Summer sounded pretty. You know what I’m talking about. Some girls just sound cute on the phone. There was a musicality to her voice, unlike the businesslike messages that I usually get from Erica.So I set up an appointment for last night. When I got to the gym Summer was waiting. I immediately recognized her from Erica’s description. She was cute, with a bright smile, slightly curly hair and adorable freckles -- just as Erica had promised. I really didn’t feel like working out last night. I had been up until 4 a.m. the night before working on a story that was due for the paper. I had a long day at work. I was exhausted. But the minute I saw Summer all the exhaustion faded away. I now had a cute girl to impress.“Erica didn’t leave me your records, so I figured we’d just do one of my routines,” she said. “Is there anything you want to do?There were many fresh things I could have said in response to this, but I behaved myself. Sort of.“Nope,” I answered. “I am putting myself in your capable hands.”We started our workout with some squat thrusts. Normally I complain about these, but I was on my best behavior. During a break in the exercise I asked Summer where she was from.“I grew up in Eugene, Oregon,” she said.“Wow,” I answered. “I don’t think I’ve ever met an Oregonian before. What is Eugene, Oregon known for?"“Weed,” she answered without hesitation. I knew there was a reason I liked this girl. Summer then went on to tell me about the large populations of hippie types that live there (perhaps that’s how she came to be named “Summer”) and the two years she had spent living in France.I was definitely smitten with this girl. Yes, I have a girlfriend. And no, I would never cheat on her (without her permission, at least). But it’s so much more pleasant to work out with someone who is young and cute and to whom I feel an attraction. It gives me a level of motivation that I would not otherwise feel. Over the next 45 minutes, we talked, I cracked jokes and she danced to the club's thumping music. It was just like a date, except I was all sweaty. (Actually, that made it feel even more like a date.)At a certain point in the hour I decided that my replacement trainer was going to become my new trainer. I was done with Erica. From now on my heart belonged to Summer.At ten minutes to 9, Summer led me over to the stretching mat. “Yay,” I thought. “I’m going to lay down and this cute girl is going to straddle me and give me a good stretching.”“Okay, time for some crunches,” Summer said.
Boo. I rushed through a few sets of sit-ups, so we would still have plenty of time for our stretching. At five minutes to 9 Summer looked up at the clock on the wall.“Okay,” she said. “I don’t have anything else for you. Is there anything else you want to do?“Welll” I began to say.“Do you usually stretch after?” she asked.“Yes!” I replied.“Okay,” she said. “Here’s a stretch I like to do.” Then she got down on the mat, pulled her legs to her chest and began to roll from side to side.“You use the mat to massage your back,” she said.“Or I could use you to massage my back,” I almost said, but didn’t.That was it. The session ended five minutes early. I had worked so hard to impress this girl, and to insure that we had time to stretch that I was now paying for five minute of me stretching myself. What a letdown. “So are you and Erica going to fight over me when she gets back,” I asked as Summer collected her stuff and prepared to leave.“Well, you’re Erica’s client,” she said.“But you guys can share me,” I said. “I have no problem with two women sharing me.”Truer words have never been spoken.
MAGGIE IS FAMOUS
Last night I went to HERE Arts Center in SoHo to review a new live version of the classic Groucho Marx game show You Bet Your Life
, hosted by Lisa Levy.Contestants were selected from the audience, and guess what? Maggie was selected to play.
I'd like to tell you that Maggie was happy about this but, alas, I cannot. But that's good news. I've dated other performers and I can tell you from experience, one spotlight hog in a relationship is puh-lenty!
Maggie and her partner Phyllis from Staten Island did a great job, and tied for the lead. The final tiebreaker was a game of Rock Paper Scissors, which Maggie lost to a little cutie named Gillian.
Now I get to write about Maggie in my story for Downtown Express. Look for that this Friday.
Maggie's scissors get crushed by Gillian's rock
in You Bet Your Life - Live!
QUIT YER WHINING ABOUT "THE SOPRANOS" FINALE
Linda Stasi, the TV critic of The New York Post, wrote the following in her review of last night’s finale of the HBO mob drama The Sopranos:“Chase will have to live with what he did last night.”This, like a lot of what Stasi writes, is complete bullshit.The theory that Sopranos creator David Chase owes the audience some big bang of an ending is nonsense. Chase provided us with 85 of the best hours in dramatic TV history. He never followed set rules, or patterns or stuck to clichés or hoary premises of how TV is supposed to work. So why should we expect that he would do that in the finale?I’m human. After investing 85 hours of my life watching the show, and countless more analyzing it with friends, family and strangers, I wanted a nice little, neatly wrapped package. But that’s not the way life happens. And even though it’s highly stylized, The Sopranos has always aimed to be a realistic portrayal of the lifestyles of modern gangsters in the Garden State. What the finale did – brilliantly -- was convey to the viewer the stress and tension that a guy like Tony Soprano encounters each day of his life. Who is that walking through the door of the diner? Why is he sitting there? Does he have a gun? Is someone going to shoot me? Or my friends or my family? Is someone going to rat me out? When are the Feds gonna show up and finally cart me off for good?If you buy into the dramatic narrative of The Sopranos, this is the life that Tony has chosen. It was the same eight years ago when the story began, and it will be the same eight years from now in the narrative continuum that, sadly, will never be.Stasi and other critics have complained that, after eight years, there was no wrap-up, or conclusion or sense of finality. Not true. The rogue New York boss Phil Leotardo was violently rubbed out, squelching what could have been (and perhaps, what some viewers wanted to be) a bloodbath of a finale. The gray-haired Carlo, one of Tony's top lieutenants, turned into a rat to protect his punk son from a drug-dealing bust. Tony’s lawyer calmly expressed that it was likely that this development would result in some legal trouble for Tony. As for Tony’s blood family: elderly Uncle Junior has lost his marbles; sister Janice is trying to get Junior’s hidden mob money; daughter Meadow has a fiancé and a lucrative job offer from a law firm; son AJ has a hot new high school girlfriend and a job in the movie business and Carmela has what she has always had – Tony Soprano for a husband, and all that comes with that.As for Tony’s mob family, Paulie is promoted, Sylvio is alive (barely), Carlo is singin’ like a canary and pretty much everybody else is whacked.What more of a conclusion do you want? If you wanted action and violence and death, you got 85 episodes of that. And the second-to-last show, with the whackings (and near whackings) of multiple members of Tony’s crew, was the bloody finale that many people wished for last night.So quit your whining, Linda, and stop being a big pussy. Because you know what happens to Big Pussies in the world of The Sopranos?They end up sleepin’ wid da fishes.
What happens next? We will never know.
IF SHE HAS A FIT, YOU MUST ACQUIT
Is is just me, or does this whole Paris-Hilton-going-back-and-forth-to-jail freak show seem somehow like the O.J. Simpson Bronco chase from back in the day?It's the same thing -- everyone in the country gathered around their TV sets (or nowadays, their computers) watching a notoriously hate-able L.A. celebrity prove the theory that famous people receive different treatment than commoners in the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is Hollywood.
Of course, the biggest difference is that Paris didn't kill two people in cold blood (including the mother of her children). Actually, if Paris had children, and she killed the mother of her children, then she would have to kill herself. And we would have been spared all of this soap opera nonsense.
Is it possible that people hate Paris Hilton more than they hate O.J. Simpson?
You bet your bloody glove they do!
AM I FUNNY LIKE A CLOWN?
The other day I got asked to perform at a child’s birthday party. I am not kidding about this. I got offered a job to perform stand-up at some kid’s tenth birthday party.I didn’t really know how to respond to this. It’s one thing to teach kids how to do stand-up. It’s another thing entirely to be their party entertainment. The biggest problem is, I don’t really have any jokes that are appropriate for little kids. The big closing number to my regular stand-up set involves me spelling out C-U-N-T.
Sure, kids love to spell. But most parents would probably be uncomfortable with the use of the word “cunt” in front of a room filled with nine-year-old kids. Parents are funny that way.This Saturday is the graduation show for my kids stand-up class. I’m hosting it and, if the last grad show was any indication, half the audience will be under ten. So I sat down and wrote a joke for the kids. Here it is:MY DORA THE EXPLORER JOKEBy Will McKinleyThe other day I watched an episode of Dora the Explorer with my niece. I think that show sets a bad example for kids. First of all, Dora just wanders off on her own, with no parental supervision. If a kid did that in real life their parents would have a heart attack. They’d be like “Oh my God! Where’s Dora?” Then they would call the cops and start and Amber Alert and put her face on a milk carton. And Dora’s best friend is a naked monkey. I know what you’re thinking, “All monkeys are naked.” But this monkey wears boots. If he can wear boots, he can wear underpants. How would you feel if I walked around wearing only a pair of boots? Nobody's going to look at me and be like, "Oh Yeah. That's Boots the stand-up comic. Isn't he funny? He only wears boots." But here's the part that bothers me the most. Dora talks to her backpack. Come on. If your kid spent all day talking to a bag, you’d call a child psychologist. And the doctor would probably put little Dora on some kind of psychiatric medication and admit her for evaluation. So let's be honest here. Dora the Explorer is not a harmless little kids show. It's actually a cartoon about a mentally disturbed runaway who hangs out with animals that don’t wear underpants.
I think it should be Rated R.
Normally I have to be at work at 10 a.m.. A lot of people think that this is a late start, but I have trouble making it each day.And I have an easy commute – about 15 minutes, door-to-door on the R/W subway.Depending on what I’m doing, who I’m working with, or how busy I am, that start time often nudges toward 10:15 or 10:30. Sometimes even 11ish. But it doesn’t matter what time I go to bed, or how much sleep I get. I still have problems getting up and out in the morning, and getting to work on time. And I have it easy. Apparently there are people who have to get to work every day at 9 AM, or earlier. And many of these people have long commutes from the suburbs, by car or train.Let’s say, for example, that you live in Westport Connecticut and you have to be at work in Manhattan at 9 AM. That means you’ll be taking the 7:19 AM train from Westport that arrives at Grand Central Station on 8:34. Then you will most likely have a 20-30 minute subway ride to your office.All of this means you have to leave your house by at least 7 AM to get to work by 9 AM. That’s two hours of your life -- each and every day -- spent just getting to work. And then you have to do it again, in the opposite direction every night after work!Think about that for a minute. That’s four hours per day…twenty hours per week…1,040 hours per year. That’s the equivalent of 43 days spent each year just getting to and from your job – before you even do one minute of work!If, like my father, you end up working for 45 years before you retire, that means you will have spent the equivalent of 1,935 days commuting. That’s more than five years of life spent in a car or on a train - just waiting to get to work. Can you imagine being old and on your deathbed, looking back on your life and realizing that you wasted more than 5 of the 80 years you have on this planet sitting in a train or a car, waiting to get to a job that you don’t even like? That’s almost 7% of your life!So here’s my advice to you: quit your job. Today. Go and do it right now. I promise you, you’ll thank me when you’re 80.
I'M NOT A WINO
I’m not much of a beer drinker, but every now and then I enjoy a nice, ice cold bottle of Amstel Light.Last night, on the way home from work, I made my nightly sojourn to the Gristede’s supermarket on South End Avenue in Battery Park City. If you’re not familiar with the neighborhood, it’s primarily young families and, due to its proximity to the Financial District, young professionals who work on Wall Street.
I don’t work in finance, nor am I part of a young family. I’m not even young, per se. ( I mean, I am, when compared to my parents, or Abe Lincoln or Price is Right host Bob Barker.) But I do essentially live in this dull, boring neighborhood – thanks to Maggie’s gorgeous apartment in a modern, doorman building.But anyway, back to the beer.So last night I picked up a single bottle of Amstel Light at Gristede's, along with a few staples (not actual staples, I mean food staples. If I needed actual staples, I would go to Staples.)As the surly, disinterested cashier was ringing me up. (Actually, cash registers don’t ring any more. They make more of a “boop” sound. But saying that the cashier booped me up sounds dirty.) Anyway…the cashier passes my single bottle of beer over the scanner and then she pulls out a little paper bag and puts the bottle in it.You know what I mean, right? Those little brown paper bottle-sized bags that winos use when they want to flout society’s open container laws and get fucked up on the street. That's what she put my bottle of Amstel Light in.Did this cashier think that I was going to walk out of the supermarket and bust open my Amstel Light on the street? Do I look like the kind of person who consumes beer in public, like a derelict? Do I look like an alcoholic? Do I look like a wino?All of these questions swirled in my head as she totaled my bill and I handed her my MasterCard.“Credit or debit?” she asked.’“I’m not a wino,” I said.“What?” she replied quizzically.“Credit” I said. “Put it on my credit card.”Then I went home and got fucked up on beer and pot. On a work night.But I’m not a wino.
PARTY IN THE PARK
I went to a party in Central Park yesterday afternoon.Those of you who live in New York know that the Sheep Meadow in the Park is a very popular party venue. It’s centrally located (thus the name), it’s cost effective (as in free) and you don’t have a bunch of idiots tracking dirt on your carpet (because the carpet in the Sheep Meadow is made of dirt).So, on paper, a party in the Sheep Meadow in Central Park on a sunny summer Sunday makes perfect sense. But in reality, it is a flawed plan. First of all, the subways on weekends never go where you want them to go. There is some mad scientist working for the MTA who sits in his secret lair, twirling his moustache, saying things like, “Where do people in New York City want to go on a weekend in the summer? Central Park? Okay. Let’s cancel the C train this weekend!”So, if you’re like me, it takes you an hour to get to Central Park from 14th Street and 8th Avenue, instead of the fifteen minutes it would normally take.Next, there’s the issue of giving people directions to the party. My friends Johanna and Mikos were having a first birthday party for their baby. So they sent out an Evite with the party location listed as "Sheep Meadow," which is pretty unspecific.
They didn’t say, “The big tree next to the Sheep Meadow Café, or “the picnic table next to the ball field.” They just said “Sheep Meadow.”So Maggie and I spent twenty minutes trolling around Central Park, looking for some baby’s first birthday party. I wouldn’t even spend twenty minutes looking for my own baby, let alone somebody else’s. If I can’t find you in five minutes, you are not worth the trouble to me.Finally we found the party amongst the many other urban cheapskates who decided to use the city’s best (and cheapest) party location. When we got there we noticed a big stack of wrapped presents. This was a problem because we had not brought a present with us. “It looks like everybody brought presents,” Maggie whispered to me.“You mean everybody except us,” I replied.Neither Maggie nor I had ever met this kid before. We were friends with her parents when we all worked together years ago, but we haven’t been close in a while. We never even acknowledged her birth. If you’re not going to give someone a present at his or her birth, why would you bother to do it a year later? It makes no sense. And one-year old kids never appreciate anything you buy them. You work so hard to find the right thing and the kid just stares at you and drools. How is that appreciative? It’s not. That's why I don’t buy babies presents. I wait until a kid is old enough to say “thank you.”On top of that, the party venue was free. It would be one thing if the parents had rented out the VFW Hall for the day. Then the present is sort of like a cover charge. But this party was in Central Park, for Heaven’s sake! The only thing they had to do was lay down a few blankets that they probably already had.In our defense, we did bring pretzels. Sure, you can say that a one-year old baby is not going to enjoy pretzels, because a one-year old baby does not have teeth with which to eat the pretzels. But it’s the thought that counts.Which leads me to the third and final reason that having a party in Central Park is a bad idea: half an hour after we got there it started to rain.
After some emergency consultation it was decided that the party would move to a friend’s apartment on 16th Street and 8th Avenue – two blocks from where my hour-long journey to Central Park had begun earlier in the afternoon.Johanna asked us if we were going to come to the new location. I said no.“But it’s so close to your apartment,” she replied.She was exactly right. And, had the party been there from the get-go, we would have been on time, and most likely had brought a little present. But I was tired of chasing this baby all across New York on my day off to celebrate a birthday that she won’t even remember.Sorry kid. New York is a tough city. You better get used to it.
THESE KIDS TODAY
I am just about to complete my second semester teaching stand-up to kids at Gotham Comedy Club.
Next Saturday is our graduation show and, in our final class yesterday, everyone was very excited -- making final preparations, practicing their bits, etc.The kids in this group range in age from 9 to 16. They come from diverse backgrounds - everything from wealthy, liberal urban Jewish families to outer-borough, blue collar families. But they all have one thing in common: they're kids. And getting them to shut up is next to impossible.Yes, I know it's a stand-up class. Stand-up comedians are supposed to talk. But they're supposed to talk when they're on stage, not when they're in the audience watching their fellow comics practice. Every one of the kids in the class is a prodigy of some sort. They are all truly brilliant, and really funny. But honestly, I don't know how teachers today keep kids focused in a classroom setting. And these kids are here because they want to be. What happens when kids are stuck in a classroom five days a week -- being force fed knowledge that they have absolutely no interest in?! It boggles the mind.Teaching this class has done two things for me. First, it's renewed my faith in the next generation. If these kids are any indication, young people today evolve into mini-adults way before my generation did. But second - and most importantly - my experience as an educator on a very small scale has given me an enormous amount of appreciation for the work that school teachers do every day.It's a cliche to say that teachers are underpaid, but it's true. I can't imagine where they get the patience to deal with today's over-stimulated, over-medicated, smarter-than-ever-but-still-immature kids.Apparently National Teachers Day was back on May 8, so I missed my chance to give mad props to all the educators out there who keep herding these cats day-in and day-out.
So let me offer some belated kudos for anyone out there (like my sister) who teaches kids. Whatever you are getting paid, it should be doubled.
MY REVIEW OF "KING KONG"
It's in the current issue of The Villager. You can read it here.
DO NOT PET ME
This morning I was walking to work from the subway when I saw a very cute dog, a golden colored lab with a pleasant demeanor.
I thought about petting this cute dog, until I saw that she was wearing a sign that said, “Do Not Pet Me I Am Working.”
Then I looked up and saw that the doggie was guiding a blind woman across 14th Street. So I didn’t pet her. I mean I didn’t pet the dog. (I also didn’t pet the blind woman.)I think this is a great sign to have. How many times have you been at work, trying to do your job, when somebody comes over and pets you? If you’re like me, it happens to you all the time.
So I made my own sign.
Now I will finally be able to get some work done.