In 1944, right in the thick of WWII, my cousin Jimmy’s plane went down while flying from India to China. Everyone else in the crew died but him. He was rescued by a tribe of folks called the Naga and lived with them for 3 months. Today Nagaland is an eco-tourist hotspot, but in 1944 the locals were head hunters and and Jimmy was carried into a village that was surrounded by dismembered heads on spikes.
Despite the fierceness of their culture, they were quite kind to him. According to Wikipedia, the people of Nagaland were known for their hospitality to strangers. My cousin did not know this at the time, but head trophies were taken only during battle and since he was not waging a war with them, he was safe. He was treated as a friend in need. In fact they liked him so much they tried to find him a wife.
I think it looked like this kid before it was “harvested”:
Jimmy claimed the girls were constantly dancing for him and that the chief encouraged him to enjoy his wife. But Jimmy “…had a girl waiting for me in New Jersey! Besides what if I got someone jealous? Someone like the chief? Next thing I’d have my head on a spike! Nope, I was having none of that!”
I’m not sure I believe him – here is Youtube video of a present day Naga girl showing off her shimmy.
I performed at the awesome new Paris Burlesque Club in Red Hook and NBC was there, doing a story about the venue! So my burlesque alter ego, Cherry Pitz is going be featured in the story airing tonight!
The show is called LX.TV 1stLook NY. To be specific, I’ll be on WNBC, channel 4 (channel 704 in HD) on Time Warner Cable, Saturday Oct 1 at 7:30pm and rerun on Sunday at 1AM after SNL. Catch it on TV if you can, or find the piece on their site http://lxtv.com/1stlookny/.
The segment covers the show Moonlight Rendezvous, produced by the gorgeous Lana Firebird. It will feature David Slone, Cherry Pitz, Ivory Fox and The Lady Aye, all at Paris Cabaret Club! Many thanks to LX.TV.
So about a month ago, Cyndi and I debuted our new storytelling show The Standard Issues at Pacific Standard. The second edition will be tomorrow night, Tuesday the 24th, at 8 o’clock and it features Ophira Eisenberg, Adam Wade, Andy Christy, Ben Lillie, and our very own Jeff Simmermon and Cyndi Freeman. If you are into the storytelling thing, you know that is a ridiculously brilliant line-up, if you are not into the storytelling thing, this is the show you will want to start with.
In the meantime, here is a video of me from our first show. As I say, first show in the space and I was the first one on, so that is why we had not figured out the lighting situation yet. Which is why I look kind of strangely muscle bound when I am actually 177 pounds soaking wet. Though I did have a pretty bad haircut at that show. Can’t blame the lighting for that.
Then I will tell you that the live show I am promoting is in New York. I know, we are being a little New York-centric with the past couple of posts. But we can only do live shows in places we are. Perhaps we can fix this in the future.
Anyway, Brian Wecht is the co-producer of Story Collider, in the video he is at our old show in Long Island City. Tonight, Cyndi will be doing his show and I will be there to drink. The show is at Pacific Standard, which is where we are doing our new show, The Standard Issues, which will be on the 24th of this month and the theme will be “Jerks.” So if you like what you saw of Brian, come check out the show tonight and, if you are not in New York but liked what you saw, I am currently plugging through my back log of storytelling videos and will bring you more as soon as I get them cut.
So this is a video of me doing a show that I am in love with. It is called Story Collider, the producers are Ben Lillie and Brian Wecht, and it is a science themed storytelling show. I don’t know why I am so in love with that concept, but for some reason it has a lot of romance for me.
The show features storytellers with no science background, as well as scientists with no performance background. The theme for the one I did was Friction and, as you will see, mine is very science light because I am somewhat science dim. Or to be generous, I took the metaphorical route. Cyndi will be appearing in their next one, which is Epidemics, on August 12th at Pacific Standard.
As you will see in the video, a show about science; educational perhaps, but not for kids.
After you enjoy this, go check out my GrandSLAM winning story on The Moth Podcast. It won a GrandSLAM.
Jen Lee is a friend of mine from The Moth, and I just love her stuff because she pours it out straight from the heart. She’s not trying to be liked, she’s just trying to be true to the story itself. She’ll talk about some difficult stuff, and the way she handles it is masterful. She’s not an emotional exhibitionist and she’s not trying to launch her comedy career by making light of dark stuff. She’s a writer who happens to publish with her mouth, and every time she tells a story it’s different and better than the last time.
This is a video of Jen Lee from a Moth slam a few months ago. The theme was “Good Intentions.” Jen grew up as a fundamentalist Christian, and here she explains the hilarious, embarrassing reality behind swallowing fundamentalist doctrine and saving it for marriage — and makes it sound like it’s not necessarily so bad. She’s so funny and awkward and sweet here, and I just had to give her a huge hug when she was done.
I have, over the last year, stepped away from my street artist, punk rock, DIY background and actually done something in the way that things are done. I put together a book proposal and started writing a book. And I was an over night success. The End.
This process can make you feel like an ant trying to work its way to the top of a Jello Mold from the inside. You have meeting after meeting and the agent might come and go with nary a nickel on the bedside table. (I am pretty sure mine has gone, if anyone sees him tell him, y’know, call me?) There are going to be parts of the business that glimmer like the city on the hill and others that smell like a dog run on a hot summer day. And, in the end, it just becomes easy to sit and stare at a phone.
But that is the restricted lane, toll road to a nervous breakdown. I have had to make myself remember at times that the work is mine and mine to do and mine to keep doing. You can’t wait around for people, unless you decided to be a writer because being suspended in misery is just what you’re into. In the end, I like what I do and I hope that always co exists with the business of editors and agents and publishers. If it doesn’t, I have taken a wrong turn.
All of this is to say – Having worked on the book for the better part of the last year, I am now sitting on a heap of material that I can use for the various weird projects I am involved in all over the city.
One of my favorites is The BTK Band, a fully improvised live music, storytelling, burlesque extravaganza. This project started out as a rough ride on an overgrown trail with a flat tire and is quickly becoming one of the tightest and most innovative live shows happening in New York. I can toot that horn, because most of the credit goes to the rest of the outfit and its leader, Peter Aguero.
But we are here to talk about me. This video is something I put together from an audio recording of one of the performances and it represents a piece of the book transformed for a new use. So enjoy that, and then check out my blog because there are a bunch of shows I am doing this coming week that I am really happy to be a part of and they are all listed over there, and there are sample chapters from the book, too. – Enjoy.
One more thing, If you are enjoying Cyndi and I on the blog, we will be appearing together as our burlesque alter egos, Cherry Pitz and Johnny Angel, at Seth Lind’s Told on Monday the 19th, 7 o’clock, at Under Saint Marks Theater. We will be there as wigged, lycra clad relationship counselors. You need our help.
If you’re reading this now, there’s a decent chance that you heard my story on the “Pro Se” episode of This American Life. I’m told it’s being re-run this week, which just tickles me to no end. It was an honor and a thrill to be on that show. When I told my sister about it, she got all stoked and said “That’s right, dog, build the legend. BUILD. THE. LEGEND.”
If you took the trouble to follow Ira Glass’s mention of this blog, you probably liked the story okay. I originally performed it at The Moth’s Grand Slam back in April of 2009. There’s a video of it here, if you want to hear the story again or watch my hands wave around while I tell it or something:
If you liked that one, I’ve got a bunch of other stories that you might get into, too:
We’ve got a couple more mules kicking in the stall here at the And I Am Not Lying stable.
It’s all well and good for me to log in at a whim (which is apparently every three weeks or so) and blog about my feelings and stuff, and for D.Billy to contribute his take on art and design, but we’ve been getting a little stale.
Not blogging is a lot like not working out: it’s pretty great until you look around and realize what happens when you haven’t been doing it for a long time. You’ve got all this free time, all this energy to do other stuff, and then you start feeling a little flabby and the next thing you know your traffic’s fallen off and you pants don’t fit and nobody is writing you little notes about how great you are.
Or what an asshole you are. There’s no middle ground online.
We’re experimenting with a few things here, and one of the biggest most exciting things is the addition of two new bloggers — Brad Lawrence and Cyndi Freeman. They’re both great friends of mine, and part of what makes New York’s underground performing scene weird, wild, but ultimately cozy and comforting.
Cyndi actually gave me my first shot as a storyteller at a tiny little bar out in Bay Ridge, a place so far out on the R train I thought I was going to have to have my passport stamped. It was at this weird little divey biker bar with a coffee shop and Internet cafe sort of tacked onto the side. You had to be careful when you went into the bar side to use the bathroom — the door opened up directly into the line of fire for the dart board, so it was entirely possible to walk in with a full bladder and end up with a pierced ear. Or eyelid.
She’s encouraging, loving and generous, with a bottomless patience for truly crazy people — she’s also a Moth Slam champion and fantastic storyteller herself. She helped me edit one of my Moth stories the night before I competed directly against her in a Moth Grand Slam. For Cyndi, it’s about helping people and building the community.
Cyndi’s also working on a one-woman show about the life and times of Wonder Woman, which she may actually perform in a Wonder Woman costume. She does gigs at sci-fi and comic conventions dressed up as Wonder Woman sometimes, so it’s not really a stretch.
Brad Lawrence and Cyndi Freeman are married, see – -and they co-produce Hotsy Totsy Burlesque and The Standard Issues together. I know — it’s adorable. And it’s some wild, weird, and fertile crossover territory, too.
Brad is a two-time Moth Grand Slam champion. He did it back-to-back, too, sort of a greatly scaled-down version of Ian MacKaye starting both Minor Threat AND Fugazi. Brad’s pretty much one of the most charming, laid-back dudes you could ever hope to meet. You can take the guy literally anywhere and he makes it all better, because he’s seen so much worse. He’s got his own blogging concern over at Billy Joe’s Boy, and book proposal in the works. He’s also a member of the BTK Band, New York’s only improv-comedy storytelling rock band, and one of the only bands that can guarantee every single audience member a hangover whether or not they even drink anything.
Here’s Brad, telling a story at Seth Lind’s “Told!”:
Brad and I have pretty much the perfect 21st-century dude-friendship — we’ve done home improvement projects together and drank whiskey and shouted together at burlesque shows, and he’s also helped me move. You cant’ ask for a better guy than that.
I’m really stoked to have these two join us. Not only do I love them as friends, I respect the holy hell out of them as artists and I love their weird eclectic tastes. I hope you guys do, too.