Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Happenings on the Hudson

My recent trip to New York in a nutshell: traffic at LaGuardia, coffee in Harlem the next morning, Broadway that afternoon, dinner with Francesco Marciuliano that evening, the NBC/30 Rock tour on day two, the NHL Store (down the street on the Avenue of the Americas), missing brunch with an old improv classmate due to an address snafu, Don Giller (more on that in a second), catching an improv show at UCB Hell's Kitchen, brunch on day three, rescheduled coffee with aforementioned improv classmate (see WU #594), 90 minute subway ride to Coney Island, a Brooklyn Cyclones game, the Coney Island boardwalk, a 90 minute ride back to Harlem, and more traffic to LaGuardia. Over 80% of my trip was spent in Manhattan, but I hope to come back to NYC soon.

I sort of had an ulterior motive to visit New York. I've blogged on at least two occasions about David Letterman, and what a formative presence he was in my pursuit of a career in comedy. While on Broadway, I took a picture of the Ed Sullivan Theater, a reminder of a dream deferred. I was promised a trip to see a taping of Dave's show in 2007, and circumstances prevented that from ever happening. Afterwards, I had lunch around the corner at Hello Deli. I ordered the "Regis" (peppered chicken and Muenster on a baguette) and stalled a little after I polished off my sandwich. I eventually worked up the nerve to take a selfie with Rupert, then bought one of the few remaining LSDL t-shirts on the souvenir cabinet. Rupert and his partner couldn't have been more kind and patient, though I nearly had an anxiety attack from this minor celebrity encounter.

Which brings me to Don Giller. Known throughout the interwebs as "Donz," Mr. Giller is the unofficial video historian of David Letterman's first three shows. Since early 2015, Giller has been exhaustively remastering the recordings and converting decades-old Betamax and VHS tapes to DVD. Donz has also been integral in assembling the (at the moment, dormant) Late Night and Late Show episode guides on TV.com. We met at Donz' apartment on the Upper West Side and we discussed his vast collection for about 3 1/2 hours. It was a worthwhile and fascinating meeting with someone that I had been communicating with mostly by email since 2006.

Tentatively, I plan on visiting NYC again in Spring 2019. I only visited three boroughs and I hope to visit the other two soon enough. Having an AirBnb all the way up in Harlem curbed some of my sightseeing, and next time I intend to stay somewhere more central (i.e. Brooklyn). Comedy and jazz shows await. This last trip was funded with inheritance money, so finances will likely be the X-factor.


Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Second Beat

I've been on the Chicago improv scene for about nine years now. I tend to bifurcate my improv story into two parts: before and after 2013. Four years of fledgling, followed by five years of modest success. When I write my comedy biography, 2013 will be the transition from the first to the second beat.

This year marks several fifth-year anniversaries for me: the founding of Flower Shop Bangers, the creation of Stu News, the first show I ever produced, joining a house team at a prominent Chicago venue, and (most crucially) graduating from the Second City Conservatory. I also witnessed a slow upheaval in my social life that year. I had improv friends moving out east and west, a natural attrition and transition for professional actors. After realizing that improv was dominating my social interactions, I took up another hobby of sorts and make new friends that weren't performers. That, however is a story for another time.

I put that into perspective while doing coffee with my friend Bess in New York. (I previously mentioned her in my tribute to Jason Chin.) I last saw Bess in person in March 2013, before most of the aforementioned milestones had happened. There was so much to discuss and catch up on, but due to a schedule snafu we only met for 45 minutes. Bess remembered me as a persistent underdog, grasping for an opportunity. Over five years later, I was more comfortable and on firmer footing, but not leaping on auditions and new projects like I used to. She summed up her five years succinctly, but I babbled on and on. It was still a pleasant chat, but I felt bad for self-aggrandizing. Then again, I had something to boast about for once.


Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Moving Fourth

I can understand if its hard for you to get excited for Independence Day. The nation is as polarized as its ever been. Dual echo chambers have created a rift in political thought. Our current president is breaking down civil liberties in ways he doesn't totally comprehend. Leadership in the Democratic Party is growing too old, disorganized, indecisive and aloof. Impeachment remains wishful thinking.

Every other November, I give my tiny audience of regular readers a pre-election pep talk. This year, with several primaries yet to be determined and a sense of polarization in both major political parties, I implore you to vote twice. Vote in the primary (if your state hasn't had one already) and vote again in the midterms on November 6th. The widening gap between progressives and moderates among Democrats is especially concerning. In those instances I recommend you vote for your party candidate, regardless of whether or not their platform gels with your beliefs.

In the meantime, go out and celebrate. Eat half your body weight in corn on the cob, then watch some fireworks. If you're fighting for your beliefs, there's nothing wrong with taking one day off. This is America's mental day.