Depends on the Audience
Alternative Comedy in Brooklyn
I hate comedians. Most people love them, but that’s only because most people don’t know any. I shouldn’t even be here in the lobby of The Millennium Hotel clacking away on my antique Royal typewriter (named Diana out of respect for my pet iguana whom I lost in a tragic moment of poor judgment while kayaking down the Gowanus canal).
If I have to be interviewing comedians, it should be ones who already made it big, like Sarah Silverfish, Eddie Lizzard, and Zach Galiphunkabacus, but instead, I am waiting for a motley trio of NYC underground comics. I’m broke, drunk, and I have a maddeningly active case of eczema eating my right calf.
Before I can fully regret my career choice, the comics arrive. Tim Warner, a hysterically incendiary political commentator, Lara Yaz, a brass-knuckled, fearless breath of aggressive sunshine, and Ed Murray, a devout worshipper of the thinking person’s penis joke, immediately sit down at my table and order 6 Johnnie Walkers … Blue. Their upcoming show July 28th, called “Lack of Etiquette,” will feature these three overly educated and bitterly hysterical comedians … and one of them smells rather oddly.
“You’re looking at the future of stand-up comedy,” says Tim Warner as he slyly pulls down his canvas fishing hat with a sarcastic grin. I ask the other Yaz and Murray, if they think that is an audaciously arrogant statement.
“No, that’s about right,” they say in reactive unison. They stand, do a strange tribal jig, and Murray, a pan-Asian Keanu Reeves look alike, wearing sunglasses (it is 9pm), opens up his trenchcoat (it is 83 degrees.) He is wearing only a pair of Hello Kitty panties. I am mesmerized.
Warner, who, looks either like a 50-year-old man trying to hang onto his youth, or a 28-year-old trying to stave off old age, continues, “You have to have a bit of an ego in comedy, just like in any other individual art, it’s not a team sport. You can’t have the ego consume you, though, because essentially, it’s all about a love for comedy.” With visions of Murray’s undergarments still dancing in my head, I ask Warner how he expresses his love for the form. “You say ‘thank you’ for the opportunity to perform, the chance to make people laugh, and also to the great legacy of comedy that I hope to become a part of someday, thank you to Chaplin, Foxx, Carlin, Kline, and Bill Hicks.” I get the feeling that if I stare at Warner much longer, I may go blind.
Lara Yaz, a punked-out Pippi Longstocking, sporting anime tattoos, and a laugh that could cut glass, is a New Yorker born in Idaho. “I did comedy back home briefly, but it became clear that out there you can only go so far. New York is great because it’s a higher ladder, a tougher climb definitely, but we all want to get to that next rung.” I ask Yaz what the most difficult thing she has experienced thus far, but her answer is interrupted as Ed Murray lights a cigarette. “You can’t smoke in here,” I inform him politely. “Just do the interview,” he says, as he tosses his used match into the glass of an underage girl talking loudly about hating her parents’ apartment on Central Park South; she downs her chardonnay without flinching. “It’s tough to get out there every night,” Yaz continues, “Because it’s different every time. You can have jokes that crush a room one night, and then the next night, everything flatlines; it always depends on the audience … that’s kind of the beauty of it. There can also be a lot of disrespect for other comedians, which I hate. It’s like in Heathers, you know? I just want my school to be a nice place … that or I want to kill everyone. I’m kidding, don’t print that.” I make a note not to print that.
Murray, no doubt needing attention, leaps onto the table and exposes his distended abdomen. I titter with excitement. A drop of perspiration runs down my cheek, I catch it with my tongue. “Stand-up comedy is a wonderful, pure medium,” he announces languidly, “Along with jazz, comic books, and the musical, it is an American art form. I believe stand-up is the perfect synthesis of all three forms because as a comic, you must utilize a performative mix of vocal improvisation and physical deliberation in a way that is both engaging and entertaining.” I am about to tell him what an interesting concept that is, but the moment disappears as he releases a thunderous fart that empties the lobby. He grins with a knowing satisfaction. I inhale deeply of the olfactory profundity.
As the three of them walk out, their conversation quickly turns to the question of whether it is most difficult to make an honestly funny joke about NPR, rape, or 9/11. “Depends on the audience …” Warner says as they exit. The waiter gives me a bill for $605. I charge it to the Brooklyn Rail.
Timmy Wisconsin currently resides in his imaginary town of Denzel, Washington.