Productivity experts (whatever that even means) will tell you that it’s important to get up from the computer sometimes and take a break, let your brain reset a little. I usually eat my lunch at my desk, hunched over and chewing through Daily Show reruns and then around 3PM feel my brain start to separate from the walls of my skull as I daydream about being a lumberjack or hopping freight trains through an America that doesn’t exist anymore.
I went out and ate my lunch in Central Park today, and brother am I glad I did. Otherwise I wouldn’t have seen discount rainbow Lady Liberty here riding a tiny pink bike around and trying to fist-bump tourists:
Here he is again, riding toward a bunch of adolescent girls, who screamed and scattered like pigeons when they saw him:
I bought the best painting on earth in a vintage store in Nashville this weekend:
There is a toy ambulance glued to the top and a plastic dog glued to the bottom and it reads:
Elvis did CPR on a dog to save his life.
My Uncle Jimmy used to own the world’s biggest Baby Ruth bar, one of the first Asteroids machines and a whole bunch of antique cans full of antique lard and sprinkled with Fillmore-era psychedelic rock posters. I used to help him haul the contents of dead people’s houses back to his auction house and hoist up WWII antiques, old metal trucks and ’60s board games up and down the aisles in the back of the store he and my aunt owned while the whole town of Smithfield bid on them to his spitfire gravel drawl.
The last few weeks have been a blur of shows for me, Brad and Cyndi. All this performing is like training for a fight: you hit that bag hard for a month so you can bring it HARD when the bell rings for real.
All this is to say that it’s time once again to leave a pair of smoking rubber tracks on stage at Union Hall with the And I Am Not Lying LIVE show, cock-rocking the NPR crowd with the best comedy, storytelling and burlesque in NYC.
If you’re reading this as a long-time follower of this blog, none of this material is going to be new to you. I’m re-flogging some older stuff, so maybe this is a good time to push away from the computer and go enjoy a nice spring day outside.
I want to shamelessly take full advantage of the mention to show off what the And I Am Not Lying show is all about here. Because frankly, not only am I proud of the work that we do and thrilled to see the storytelling world getting a little credit … I want to put asses in seats on the first Tuesday of every month at Union Hall.
Brad Lawrence, Cyndi Freeman and I put on a monthly show featuring storytelling, comedy, burlesque and sideshow — and I want to share some of the stories that we’ve done there. We’ve only had a residency there since February, so we’re still building up some steam. But all of us do a TON of other shows around town, too.
Consider this a primer, dive deeper if you want. Today is functionally a Friday anyway, so go ahead and watch all of these at work.
Sometimes Cyndi ties her burlesque acts to her stories, and the end result is bigger than either piece seperately. So here’s a story by Cyndi Freeman, with a pretty direct tie into the burlesque act immediately following:
Here’s the aforementioned burlesque act from our show, featuring Cyndi Freeman, Brad Lawrence and Apathy Angel:
Somewhere around the spring of 1991, my friend Frank Benson played the Cramps for me for the first time. He said “hey, check these guys out, I’m going to take a shower real quick.” By the time he came out of the bathroom, my head was full all kinds of sweet and rotten mutant fruits.
A year later, his mom took me and him and a date to see the Ramones at the Boathouse in Norfolk, VA and nothing was ever the same again. My glasses got knocked off and ground back into sand during the first 5 minutes of the show, and I took a boot to the face by the second set. The next day, I was half-deaf and limping around the house, clutching the walls to feel my way to my bedroom and all I wanted to do was get up on a stage and be Joey Ramone.
A week after that I quit the rec league soccer team by throwing my shirt in the coach’s face. During a game.
Something didn’t add up, though. Me and Frank were scoring acid from drag queens at the Rocky Horror Picture Show and had a direct line to all the best music this new burning world had to offer. With all this newfound punk rock swagger and the confidence of finally being down with the coolest guys in school, we figured girls would finally start paying attention.
As it turns out, it took a little while. We had no idea why.
Anyone who tells a teenager that “these are the best years of your life” is only telling half of the truth. In my experience, we got to taste the potential that the world had — but actually feeling it fall into place day by day and year by year is even better. Frank and I hang out now. We both live in Brooklyn, but we’re both busting ass on our own art careers.
We don’t see each other as often as people who live three miles away from each other might. But every time we do hang out, one of is getting the other one really excited about some cool new stuff. We’re still kicking each others’ doors wide open.
It’s gotten down to this: now I have nightmares about the And I Am Not Lying show.
They said we were going to be in a big basement theater with ampitheater seating. Then we get there, and the floor is a solid concrete slab, two-thirds of which tilts toward a flat part at a 40 degree angle. There are no seats except for a pile of folding chairs in the corner.
People are filing in, not enough people to fill the room or even have a decent crowd – just enough to make it so that we can’t cancel.
I’m running around the room setting up folding chairs on the slanted part and Cyndi’s trying to make change for people that are paying at the door but her makeup’s not even all the way on. Then people actually sit in the chairs and start sliding down the concrete ramp, sparks shooting from the chairs’ metal legs until they hit the stage part of the concrete with a jerk and fall forwards.
Still, the show’s got to go on so we get started. But while I’m telling my story, right when I’m getting to the hard part, some guy in a baseball hat with two kids walks right up to me and says “excuse me, how do I get to Bryant Park?”
I’m stunned. I tell him and he leaves, and then some woman says “does this thing go uptown on weekends” and I realize that we are not, in fact, in a basement theater. We’re on a subway platform.
Then I wake up and it’s 4:30 in the morning and I stare at the sparkly things floating in my eyeball fluid until 7, when I get up and go to work.
I’m really excited to have my friend Andy Ross on the show, reading and performing some of his short comedic pieces. This is a video of a story he told at Union Hall one time, about the time he sang both parts of “I’ve Had The Time Of My Life” at a talent show. And the amazing thing is, he gets the whole crowd to sing along with him. It’s both hilarious and oddly uplifting.
The act of telling personal stories about one’s own life takes a certain amount of a certain type of nerve — mostly the “who the hell do you think you are” variety. Seriously: why should anyone give a whoop about my feelings about my feelings?
That feeling gets even weirder when I’m using the Internet as a megaphone to get people to my shows. “Who the fuck do you think you are telling everyone to come see whoever the hell it is you think you are” is pretty much the refrain that runs through my head every time I bathe my face in the cool glow of one rectangle or another.
But screw all that, we’ve been busting our asses to pull together a HELL of a week of shows this week in Brooklyn and Austin, TX for SXSW and I want to pull ‘em all together in one place, then crop-dust the whole Internet with ‘em all damn week.
First: We’re cock-rocking the NPR crowd with And I Am Not Lying – Live, NYC’s only comedy storytelling burlesque sideshow on Tuesday, March 6th at Union Hall in Brooklyn. You’ll see stories by me, Brad Lawrence, and Cyndi Freeman as well as magic by Albert Cadabra, burlesque by Cherry Pitz and Little Brooklyn and comedy by Wil Sylvince.