A few weeks ago my friend Joel and I each got a $100 ticket from cops on the MTA platform at the Morgan L stop. My transit card was out of money and there was no ticket machine or booth so Joel opened the gate and let me into the subway platform. We were approached by 6 cops, 2 of which were in plain clothes “undercover” catching anyone who snuck into the subway. They had picked the Morgan L station specifically because people often sneak in, I’m guessing it’s because the MTA doesn’t have any options for riders to buy fares at that entrance and if people sneak in the MTA will make $100 per person instead of $2.50 per person (minus whatever commission the cops make, I heard the cops discussing quotas so I’m pretty sure they get some kind of bonus or high-five each time they write a ticket). Well played MTA, well played.
I don’t justify my actions. I broke the rules, I’ll suffer the consequences. Even though I just missed my bus home to Boston because the L train computer broke and they needed an hour to fix it. Even though I have spent countless dollars not only on MTA trains that stall, stop or never arrive but also on cabs that I had to frantically take to a meeting or gig or wherever after being told “there’s no trains.” I have been pushed, squashed, and packed into extremely crowded train cars with assholes who blast music from their phones while sitting with their legs so sprawled open their balls should have to pay an extra fare. I have stood in disgusting subways stations being dripped on by God knows what leaking from the MTA’s ceiling certain it would cause me to later grown a third ear. I have grabbed onto a subway stair railing only to put my hand in a clump of feces (most likely human feces). I have been cornered on a subway stairwell by a terrifying drunk man that towered at least one foot and 100 pounds more than me, threatened with rape. (Man, I would have loved some cops to be around then). When I managed to escape and tell the MTA employee working in the booth, she replied “and what do you want me to do about it?” It’s always great when a woman dismisses another woman’s plea for her physical safety.
And yet without argument, I will pay my ticket because I am someone who takes responsibility for my actions, unlike the MTA. The MTA knows we are slaves to its existence therefore it can act however it wants without remorse. It can shut down services screwing over local businesses (like the upcoming shut down of the G to Long Island City) with no regard. It can keep raising prices while lowering it’s quality. It can abandon us, abuse us, and fuck us when we don’t want to be fucked, because it knows we have no other choice but to keep this dysfunctional relationship going.
Sometimes I think I’m going to die on that subway. Whenever it pauses for more than 30 seconds I begin to panic, I start frantically looking for emergency snacks in my purse, I start to freak out about where I’ll pee. I look around the trying to decide who I’d ask to hold me (and maybe make out with me) as we took our last breaths. Please stand clear of the closing chest of anxiety. Thank you for riding with the New York City tomb.
There are some lovely things about the subway. I like striking up random conversations with fellow passengers. I like randomly running into an old friend on the platform and finding out we both now live off the same stop. I like when people actually give their seats to the elderly, pregnant women and kids. I like when a subway conductor is feeling goofy and makes jokes or sings during his or her train announcements. I like the enthusiasm of the people handing out AM NY and the Metro newspapers outside the station. I like the super talented musicians that play thier hearts out on the platform (not on the train, I don’t like being trapped and forced to watch entertainment. My favorite move subway break dancers do is the one where they leave). I like the 3 construction workers that helped me outside the Bedford L last summer when I collapsed. One held my purse, the other held my head, and the other bought me water. They all stayed with me till an ambulance arrived. If somehow they ever read this- thank you endlessly, I owe you each a drink. But these things I like about the subway have to do with the human spirit, not the MTA. If it weren’t for the kind, cool, resilient people I meet every day in this gorgeous disgusting city, I would probably go crazy. Like legit talking-to-mailboxes insane. Luckily my current crazy is limited to the occasional “go fuck yourself” outburst at one of those “can I talk to you about your hair?” dudes in Union Square.
And there are the cops. One time I found an unattended suitcase in Penn Station, when I saw something and said something to a cop he shrugged and said “ok.” I said “don’t you want to know exactly where the potentially bomb filled suitcase is?” He put down his iPhone and begrudgingly said “uh, fine.” So sorry officer to have interrupted your game of Temple Run, I was just trying to save the world.
But enough about terrorism, back to those 6 cops “protecting” the precious Morgan L stop MTA station from degenerates like me and my cheerful, thin, gay Asian friend in jean shorts. The officer that gave me my ticket was really nice and straightforward with me. He told me how the MTA is in such financial ruins that this ticket used to be $50 then the MTA raised it to $100 and now the MTA is trying to raise it to $400. When I asked why there were 6 cops working this case and couldn’t 2 have sufficed and aren’t there worst crimes for cops to be focused on? He said “the theory we are told as cops is, if you start cracking down on small crimes the effect will trickle up and stop bigger crimes.” Sure, you mean bigger crimes like cops killing an innocent man in a choke hold?For the record I don’t hate cops. I am grateful to many cops for their service. A lot of cops are wonderful. Cops that kill people for no reason and the cops that defend those killer cops are not wonderful.
Something has to be done, but I don’t know what. The only thing I do know to do is to pay my ticket because unlike some, I try to do the right thing.
10+ years ago I was in a sketch on The Jimmy Kimmel Show. I was on for maybe 7 seconds. I didn’t have any lines. I just walked by and rolled my eyes at wrestler Mick Foley as he squirted himself with ketchup. I had a terrible haircut that made me look Justin Guarini from season one of American Idol. I was also fat because I would get super stoned and eat half a jar of Soynut butter every night but thought since it had “soy” in the title it was healthy. The day that I filmed that sketch I left my sister a voicemail saying "hey no big deal but I might briefly be on Kimmel tonight if you want to record it" (yea, I said record because IT WAS THAT LONG AGO). She then left me a voicemail saying "that’s awesome! Now look, when he interviews you please do not mention the fact that I just got engaged, I haven’t told everyone yet and I’d hate for them to find out on TV." So not only did my sister think that I (a nobody who had been doing comedy less than a year) was a fancy sit down guest on Kimmel but she also thought Kimmel’s first question was going to be about her love life. Anyhoo, I don’t have Jimmy Kimmel listed in my bio and yet for some reason, bookers keep putting “as seen on Jimmy Kimmel” as one of my credits. So I wanted to share this story to clear the air in the hopes that bookers would stop including Kimmel in my credits and I wanted to share this story to publicly make fun of my sister.
It’s my 10 anniversary of doing comedy! Maybe.
The first time I ever did stand-up was at a high school talent night. I did a bunch of jokes about “if Mr. Brady is an architect why did he design only 2 bedrooms for 6 kids?” I’m pretty sure I stole that bit from TV so that’s not really when I started comedy, or is it? If so, then it’s my 16 year anniversary.
I also did stand-up 4 times in college, mostly “girls fart, isn’t that crazy” jokes, so if that’s when I really started then it’s my 14 year anniversary.
But wait, after college I lived in LA where I worked a real club the Comedy Store, so perhaps we should start there making it my 12 year anniversary. But then again after a year the thrill wore off and my last 2 years in LA I only did 2 spots a week and mostly spent my time tanning, doing drugs, reading The Artists Way and making vision boards. So maybe that’s not when I truly when I started comedy.
Then I moved to NYC, when I got here I actually called comedy clubs and was like “hello! I’d like to perform please!” And they were like “what are your credits?” And I was like “I lived LA.” And they were like “bye!” That led to about 3 years of me being overwhelmed and under committed. So if we minus those 5 half assed years then it’s really my 7 year anniversary. But then there were those 2 years in 2006 when I tried to quit the business, moved to the suburbs of Boston (and later moved back to NYC) and got married (and later divorced) because I thought I needed be “normal.” I did some comedy then but I was still one foot out, let’s include some of that time.
Also sprinkled throughout were lots of improv classes and those 4 different improv teams I was on where almost everyone abandoned me to get “real jobs.” (Thanks a lot guys for not yes and-ing my dreams!) So really if we are only going to count the years I’ve been doing comedy consistently, I guess it’s my 6 year anniversary. Maybe.
But what about all those times as a kid that I made my parents laugh as I ran around the house pretending I was Benny Hill? Does that mean I’ve been doing comedy for 30+ years?
Honestly I never how to answer the question “how long have you been doing comedy?” If I say too long I feel bad that I’m not further. If I say too short, I feel like I’m not honoring all the experiences I’ve been fortunate enough to have. If I think too hard about time I can get anxious and regretful about all the time I wasted and how much time I have left, and then I’m just wasting more time worrying about time. That’s why part of me hates any question of “how long have you been doing (fill in the goal/career blank)?” because the answer really only affects the person being asked. Often for me it starts that horrible mental cycle where I equate success to speed. I’m not saying don’t ask people that question, I’m just saying if you’re asked that question remember that the answer really doesn’t matter.
So I don’t really know how long I’ve been doing comedy. And on days where I feel rejected or hopeless I sometimes don’t know why I keep doing comedy. All I know is I can’t seem to stop doing comedy. I love comedy. I love comedians. I think comedy is one of the most powerful tools for healing and change. Every time I’ve tried to quit, comedy comes back to me and I embrace it (slow motion style like two long lost lovers reuniting on a beach) with a new perspective and a little less pressure. I think success is more than just “don’t quit.” I think success is also about quitting as in quit beating yourself up, quit comparing yourself and your journey to others, quit suffering with expectations about what should be happening. Instead use that energy to work hard and let things happen. Even the fucked up things, let them happen, they will happen whether or not you worry about them. So if you’re pursing something (not just comedy but anything) and feel bad that life has gotten in the way, try to remember and trust that life is actually leading the way.
And if you read this entire post, thank you. Writing this felt good, I hope for you, reading it felt good too.
Productivity tips! 1) Open 5 different writing projects on your laptop. 2) Check Facebook. 3) Drink lots of coffee so you feel extra anxious about getting nothing done. 4) Check to see if your last Tweet got any “heat.” 5) When your mom calls to discuss how much she saved using coupons at Stop & Shop say “I can’t talk I’m really busy” then check Facebook again. 5) Spell check one of your writing projects so you feel like you did something productive. 6) Take a photo of your laptop and spend 20 minutes picking out Instagram filters and coming up with a stupid caption. 7) Repeat.