Friday, May 17, 2013

Funny Makes the World Go Round

For the past hour at Starbucks I have been unintentionally sitting in on a meeting between two girls at a table  next to me talking about a project they are excitedly working on (and by girls I mean that they were roughly between the ages of 21- 23.) They seem to believe that their creation is a work of genius that deserves to be applauded, which for men over 40 is a feeling only expressed when one leaves behind a perfectly oblong football shaped BM in the bowl- laces included- and we feel a tinge of sadness that no one is there to confirm its majesty.

They seem to be writing something on women in comedy but they are terribly over-analyzing the sociological aspects of women in society and getting excited over the all the points they are hitting; such as expounding on the biology of the female body and its effect on women performing on stage; all in compiling their numerous theories on what goes into making female comedians funny.  I feel like they not only don't understand funny but they might not understand women either.

Funny is funny. You can debate whether women are funnier than men (they probably are- between shooting a human out of their birth canal and having to deal with the fumbling and pedestrian male body sexually, I’m amazed that every woman doesn’t think exactly like Tina Fey or Sarah Silverman); or whether female comedians have it harder than male comedians in terms of audience perception and less opportunities in a historically male dominated profession. What these girls don’t understand is that funny is funny.

Funny isn’t something that needs to be analyzed and put into a dissertation as if you were in a Women’s Studies course, which is what I hope they are working on.  Sure, being funny is a muscle that needs to be exercised and you don’t become as successful as Louis CK or Kristin Wig without the proper experience, just like Bruce Jenner didn’t win the decathlon without spending years running and training on the track.  (He also didn’t hold onto what’s remaining of his sanity this long without spending years on his couch tuning out his wife and family.)

There’s no mystery to unravel in why women, or men are funny and I would think looking at things from an analytical perspective doesn’t make for an entertaining read.  Comparing and contrasting Janine Garafalo’s stand-up-mannerisms with that of Ellen or Zach Galifianakis is not going to leave you with a mathematical equation solution to what makes women funny. E does not Equal Funny Squared, unless E is MC Hammer dancing, while on ‘e,’ in square pants.

I feel like women get this and most girls do too, funny or otherwise. It is just bothering me that these particular girls are so gung ho over all their Sociology 201 type theories. I really want to chime in and it’s not because one of them looks like she should be an intern at a fashion magazine. For one thing, I feel like I’m sitting in on their creative brainstorming session, which is always one of the weirdest things about being in a Starbucks, as they have become conference rooms-on-the-go for people.  Another thing is they don’t sound like they’re funny people, much less comedy nerds. They were researching the names of comedians that someone writing about comedy should know.

I remember the first time I saw George Carlin’s Carlin on Campus as a kid and it was like a light shown down on me sitting on the edge of my Formica coffee table in my family’s den, offering me another way to look at words and making me appreciate my dad’s sarcastic nature even more.  I must have worn out that homemade VHS tape like a broken cassette of Billy Joel’s Glass Houses that could be found in every home in 1982.

Unlike Billy Joel’s music, I never got sick of George Carlin’s comedy and I have thought of Carlin's brilliant use of language during everyday moments throughout my life (like when I googled synonyms for "shit" for this post which reminds me of Carlin's brilliantly hilarious point that "You don't take a shit, you leave a shit.")  So, the more I listen to these girls talk about comedy in an unfunny way, the more it’s beginning to bother me.  After an hour of listening to their theories notes and data compilation, I feel like Bea Arthur’s Dorothy in the Golden Girls after listening to one too many of Rose’s stories about St. Olaf. I wish I had “You’re killin’ me” tattooed on one palm and “Smalls” tattooed on the other.

 I want to hone my inner Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society and ask them to step on their desks and rip out their Pritchard handbook to measuring comedic reasoning.  I want to ask them to close their eyes and imagine them waking up next to a strange guy in Brooklyn (whose hairy back is only surpassed by his hairy front) after a night of drinking and tell them how to quickly describe the scenario of finding their bra that’s disappeared into the abyss of the mess that is this guy’s bedroom; without waking him or his roommates up.

As they slowly describe a madcap walk of shame dash to find a cab, they begin to see the light and even ask me to pull their finger. To my surprise, this releases an End Of Days level air biscuit that rips across the Starbucks like a Tsunami knocking down the male barista with the goatee and no chin, sending his lip ring flying across the floor, like he was Naomi Watts on an Indonesian vacation.

 If I hear one of them say they are getting paid for their work and that this is going to end up in Teen Vogue  or Time Out New York or even Time Out West New York, I'm going to smash my underpaid hand on my desk, spilling my drink all over my crotch while whimpering like a frustrated child before running out of the Starbucks with my arms flailing in pure spastic (Phoebe from friends) style only to get sprayed by a puddle of  water from a passing bus that has Lena Dunham and the cast of Girls staring back at me in an ad on its side as it pulls away from my “New Girl in the City” momentary breakdown.  Now, that would be funny.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

More Tales From the Dark Coffee Side

Oh coffee, my coffee.  I have forsaken my local Starbucks and taken the bean less traveled and that has made all the difference. I’m sitting at the new Coffee Bean that opened close to my apt. which has unshackled me from my local Starbucks' magnet like hold on my looking-for-work-week/freelance soul and offered me a more comfortable, less cramped but similar outlet to plug into.  I am currently watching the steam rise up from a cup of tea that a girl has asked me to watch while she attends to whatever business she has been attending to for the past few minutes.

It has been ten minutes now and the steam in her cup has fluttered away along with my attention to my own work as I lift my head to notice the apple beacon facing me from her laptop and seemingly looking down on my Netbook with a brightness and an air of superiority that seems to have Ironman qualities to it.  Although quite handy in size, my Netbook is a little dandy in terms of its tech capabilities and in terms of its super hero coolness factor, it probably rates somewhere between Aquaman and the guy who sells Silver Surfer his Mr. Zog’s sex wax.  

Actually, this Netbook is an upgrade over my old Netbook which I had spilled Chai tea latte on, which forced me to lug a wireless keyboard around with me just to use it, which made me look like a writer who is serious enough about his craft to carry a separate keyboard with him wherever he goes. This makes me even more approachable and the kind of guy who you might ask to watch your expensive personal belongings, which at a coffee shop is pretty much whoever is next to you.

There are a few people who you probably wouldn’t trust to follow the unwritten code of laptop users and coffee drinkers. I’m referring to those who are so "out there," they stand out among the many who hang out at Starbucks and seem disconnected while connecting online. Such as, the non subtle types who blurt out brief nonsensical conversations with themselves that gives people a glimpse into their universe, before returning to a silent, glossy-eyed gaze out the window for the next half hour.  For example:  “Ohhh. Yarlsburg cheese. I love Yarlsberg.” (Followed immediately by) “Ahhh. What!  Swiss! Swiss! Come on!”  

Ok, It has been another ten minutes and this pony tailed girl in the yoga pants, red hoodie and aviator sunglasses is nowhere to be found.  Is it possible that she’s just moved to another table with friends and she has just blended in with all the other cute girls wearing yoga pants, hoodies and aviator glasses that make up the Murray Hill matrix? Alas, that is not the case. As I nonchalantly look around the room, I do not see the distinguishable red hoodie and her laptop is still there, open no less, naked and inviting if you will, for anyone walking by to sit down for a minute and calmly walk away with it. Not to mention a full cup of lukewarm tea.

It’s not like I was taking my responsibility of guarding her tea and laptop seriously. I believe that if someone asks you to watch their laptop while they go to a bathroom in a coffee shop, they have also bestowed upon you the right to check/delete their emails and change their screen saver to puppies humping kittens.

Her disappearance has awoken my curiosity and senses more than the iced coffee I’m drinking. Just like Mr. Wolf in Pulp Fiction, I like my coffee Iight and sweet, but unlike Mr. Wolf, It would surely take me a hell of a lot longer than a half hour at 8 a.m. to organize the cleaning of brain and blood from the inside of a Chevy Nova.  It takes me about a half hour at that time just for my cell phone alarm’s horrifying combination of car screeching sounds, old fax machine dialing noises and early morning pigeon wails that create the right cacophony of irritating noises that pierces my subconscious’ dream du jour.

This may pry me out of one of my old standby dreams in which I’m floating over my old high school as the young Christina Appelgate (by young, I mean cute Christina with bangs from “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead,” as opposed to the sexy mallrat/burnout late ‘80s look she personified in Married With Children)  waits for me wearing a prom dress and a look of nervous anticipation  before my doppelganger pulls up in a Clown Dog car and drives her away towards the beach as I grasp out and shout “Nohhhh. We’re supposed to watch the grunion run. That was my idea.”

As my voice fades into nothingness, I struggle to get out the words- ”Damnit, I’m right on top of her Rose…” I disappear into the clouds above, before emerging in my room, wiping the crust out of the corner of my sleep-weary eyes and rolling over on to the cell for another ten minutes of subconscious misadventures.

Another similarity to myself and the Mr. Wolf character is the fact that I do look pretty sharp in a tux and would love to wear it casually a few days a year, like when riding the subway with a messenger bag strapped across my cumber bun or when spending time on my laptop in the coffee shop my body currently resides in as my mind drifts.   

I had hoped the iced coffee would spark my brain cells to construct more than my usual early morning thoughts, which mostly consist of me noticing that the sky is once again blue or bastardizing the lyrics to the Brian Adams medley in the shower that has been in my head since 1985. I have been mashing “Cuts Like a Knife” with “I need Somebody” with “Summer of ‘69” with the theme song to St. Elmo’s Fire and Steve Perry’s “Oh Sherry” since before my voice had changed and I had grown my still countable, chest hair patch.

As I sit staring at the now-dimmed apple logo facing me from the laptop of the girl whom I have affectionately named Amelia Earhart, I catch myself bopping my head and whisper-singing to Howard Jones' "What is love?" The song is playing at the Coffee Bean at the exact same time as a college girl sitting at the table alongside me asked her friend "Why do they choose this music?" It’s a moment that causes a brief feeling of youthful embarrassment combined with a realization that I am indeed older than anyone in here who doesn’t look old.     

I do agree that choosing a playlist in a coffee shop in 2013 that is just '80s, '70s or ‘90s music is a lazy option that will not go over well after the first two cringe worthy songs are played and/ or the Verve Pipe song “Freshman” begins its depressing chorus.   But, that 1985 Howard Jones album was underrated at the time. His hair might have been as poofy as The Romantics and the Kajagoogoos of his New Wave ‘80s era but that Dream Into Action album was more than simple synth pop-forgettable fluff.

Those songs blend in very well with the more recent indie/new-new wave songs in my spotify playlist. You don’t need to have seen the comedy classic “Better Off Dead” to have the song “I’d like to get know you well” in your brain’s playlist ready to force you to click play whenever you hear it on the radio.

35 minutes into my watchdog duties and this girl is nowhere to be found. I’m seriously contemplating taking her laptop and leaving mine in its place.

“Heard it from a friend who… heard it from a friend who… heard it from a friend you were messing around...”  Damn you REO Speedwagon? Why must you force me t o sing along to your hauntingly sad lyrics?  Damn you.

I’m now in full blown observer mode and I notice a stunningly attractive girl with short hair come in to meet her friend, which normally would not register with me, except for the fact that they're both wearing page boy hats. That just seems like there was some sort of preparation involved, as if they texted in the morning to see if they both were wearing their identically uncommon hat that will enable them to uniquely stand out in the exact same way.

A vintage page boy hat seems like it would be a very specific article of clothing to wear when meeting up during a weekday in the most suburban part of the city. I guess it’s possible they both were grabbing a coffee before beginning their shift handing out newspapers to passersby and shouting “Get ya paper. Paper Mista. Read all about it. Al Jolsen to star in talkie.” Since we were not backstage at the musical Newsies or living in the 1930s, I have to assume that they face-timed in the morning before putting together their retro chic, hipster ensemble.

After my interest started waning in the very specific wardrobe choice of the two friends, I see a woman walk in with a take-out pizza box and begin to eat a greasy pepperoni slice. One of the baristas approaches her to inform her that she couldn’t eat non-kosher food there because they are a kosher establishment. Leading with the kosher thing seemed odd in her confrontational approach, as opposed to just saying, "Hey, you can't bring in outside food,” which wouldn’t prompt the "Seriously? Kosher Coffee?” response.

In true New York City fashion, the girl eating the pizza gets quickly enraged for no reason, as if she and her whole family were just insulted and actually gives the employee the finger for good effect before walking out in a huff. I’m surprisingly surprised and amused by her angered response. She obviously bought the pizza at one of the numerous pizza places in a 3 block radius of the Bean.  Why would she bring pizza to a coffee shop? 

She doesn't even have a laptop, so why wouldn't she just eat it at the pizza place and then come here. Not to mention the fact that pizza and coffee aren’t exactly two great tastes that taste great together. Of course the other oddity of the situation is the whole kosher establishment rule. Not only is all their pre-packaged salads and assorted muffins blessed by a rabbi but you can't eat non-kosher food of any kind, which now explains why I see so many orthodox Jews here. It's got the Schlomo seal of approval. This might also explain the two women with page boy hats and I briefly wonder if they’re the world’s only cool Hasidic women and if they party with Matisyahu after attending Shule.

Time after Time is playing now and Cindy Lauper’s voice brings my thoughts back to Amelia and to what Lost island of bizarre, interconnected existential  happenings she was taken into while being sucked down the toilet bowl in the Bean's bathroom.  She couldn’t possibly be in the bathroom for this long unless she was one of those teen moms who didn’t know she was pregnant and is giving birth on to her hoodie while hovering over the bowl. But, I had already seen people coming out of the bathroom, so I knew she wasn’t in there. It’s possible she went across the street to grab something and had to perform CPR on an old woman collapsing in front of her and was waiting for the EMT workers to arrive.

It is also possible she had to mail a letter and bumped into her old college boyfriend, (who she didn’t think lived in the city) on his way to work and the two of them sparked up a conversation that rekindled the passion they’ve always had for each other; as they impulsively rushed up to her place to rip each other’s clothes off and knock her headboard loose, all while keeping their current relationships a secret from each other that will ensure that they end up as two ships passing on 2nd avenue in the early morning. 

Alas, life is not a Nicholas Sparks book and this Amelia Earhart of Kips Bay is just as likely to be Wonder Woman who forgot where she parked her invisible plane or even more likely just someone who obliviously thinks the world revolves around her.

Just as I was actually beginning to get angry at her disappearance, as if it had tethered me to the chair I was in any more than my own desire to get out of my apartment and people watch had; she nonchalantly walks back in, sits back down, takes off her aviators and smiles at me. It was such a carefree, friendly smile that I completely forgot about the fact that I had just been obsessing over her whereabouts. I returned the smile instinctively and we exchanged a knowing nod. A song begins to play through the speakers overhead and I found myself singing “Do-do-do, do-do-do-doo.  Do-do-do, do-do-do-doo...” under my breath.

This time I wasn’t alone as the girl formerly known as Amelia Earhart began quietly singing and bopping her head at the same time as I did. I looked over at her and noticed for the first time she had a little gray and white dog that must have been in her bag and was now resting comfortably at her feet while its collar was being held in place under the chair’s leg.  As we both sang to ourselves and together I felt a wave of familiarity and kinship with the girl and her fluffy companion.

 We got louder and more animated as we belted out “The sky it was gold, it was rose, I was taking sips of it through my nose and I wish I could get back there someplace back there” and after both stumbling through the next line as the tempo picked up again we stopped, laughed and went about our business.

“Do-do-do, do-do-do-doo.  Do-do-do, do-do-do-doo...”