Sunday, April 25, 2010

"I Have A Tattoo On My Vagina! Wanna See?"

© 2010 Leighann Lord

Saturday Night, First Show: Beverages in hand, smiles on their faces, the audience is chatting animatedly with their friends. They're out having a good time and they know it's about to get better. House lights go down, stage lights come up, the hum of conversation is replaced by enthusiastic clapping as the MC takes the stage. It's show time, let the laughs begin.
And then there's Saturday Night, Second Show.

Saturday night second show at a comedy club can be a bit of a free for all. It's not as raucous as the almost extinct third show, but for a low-energy, high brow, monologist it can easily rank right above a root canal. At a recent SNSS, the audience was dominated by a large group of 17 to 25 year olds celebrating a friend's 21st birthday.

Youth is not necessarily an accurate predictor of how an audience will or will not behave. Any comic who’s played a Senior Center will attest that old folks get rowdy too. Any big monolithic group mixed in with a general audience can be high maintenance. Sometimes any attention you pay them only fuels their desire for more. While it would be kind to say that this particular group of young people was high-spirited, the truth is they were loud, obnoxious and disruptive.

The young women in the group were screamers. Anything the MC said to or about them elicited a loud and prolonged "Wooooooooo!" the young girl call of the wild usually heard during Spring break. Comedy icon, Larry Miller once said to me that he didn't like the screaming. "If they're screaming, they're not listening."

By contrast, the young men in the group started out sullen and silent. They were simply bidding their time, waiting for the alcohol to give them the courage to demonstrate how much funnier they were than the professionals on stage. As the evening wore on, the liquor obliged.

Who's responsibility is it to deal with a rowdy crowd? Some comedians relish to opportunity. I do not. I do comedy, not combat. I think a venue's obligation extends beyond merely seating and serving. Ideally, you shouldn't have to tell adults how to behave, but when management does nothing it is abdicating it's responsibility to the non-disruptive patrons who have also paid to see a show. Glancing around the club I could see quite a few people who were visibly annoyed that these Jersey Shore hopefuls were being allowed to dominate so much of the show. Unfortunately, seated front and center of the stage made it impossible for me or the other comics to ignore them, as would have been my preference.

Post show, I was sitting at the bar mulling over career paths not taken when a woman from the offending group staggered over and proceeded to tell me how great she thought I was. She couldn’t have been referring to my stand-up. I hadn’t done any. Her compliment must have been for my verbal jousting skills, my ability to shovel impromptu witticisms against the imbecilic tide.

She apologized for the behavior of her group but confessed she really didn't know them. They were friends of her boyfriend and they were "young and immature." Indeed. This is the same woman who inexplicably shouted out in the middle of my show, "Let's talk about sports."

"Hmm, let's not."

Since we were now friends she offered to show me her tattoos. "I have a Yankee tattoo on my vagina! Wanna see?"

Offers like these are why some guys become comedians. They live for the drunk girl at the bar willing to over-share. "Uh, no" I said.

But she really wanted to show me, and what drunk people want, drunk people get. She lifted up the front of her shirt, unbuttoned the top of her jeans and showed me a tattoo that was thankfully a modest two inches south of her belly button. I have nothing against alcohol, just the people who can't hold it. After a few decades Tattoo Girl wandered off to flash someone else.

I sat a while longer at the bar, sipping my coffee and decided in the end not to quit comedy just yet. Saturday Night, Second Show is just one of the hazards of the trade. No matter how bad it gets no comedian is ever literally eaten alive by the audience. It just feels that way.

Leighann Lord is a stand-up comedian. April 27-29 she'll be performing in Haiti with Armed Forces Entertainment. Check out her other upcoming shows @ Join her on FaceBook. Follow her on Twitter.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Hanging With History

© 2010 Leighann Lord

(4/19/10 -- I was saddened to learn that Spann Watson, one of the original Tuskeegee Airmen, passed away on April 16th, 2010. I had the pleasure of meeting him in February and wrote a brief blog about the experience. I feel terrible that I never got around to posting it. I do so now to honor his memory and his invaluable contribution to American History.)

I seem to be spending a lot of time with men in uniform. I recently had the pleasure of meeting retired Lieutenant Colonel Spann Watson. Who's that? During World War II he served as a P-40 Mustang pilot with the famed Tuskegee Airmen's 99th Fighter Squadron. I'm running in very historical circles.

We were both part of a Black History Month program for The Food & Drug Administration. LtCol Watson was the Key Note speaker. A sharply dressed 93-year-old with perfect posture, it was thrilling to hear him regale the audience with stories of his childhood, seeing Charles Lindberg fly, attending More House college and what things were like for Black Service men.

During World War II, the 332nd Fighter Group (which the 99th Fighter Squadron later fell under) was involved in 1,578 combat missions. The Tuskeegee Airmen damaged or destroyed 409 enemy aircraft, garnering 744 Air Medals, including 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses and the Congressional Gold Medal.

Lt Col. Watson reminded us of time when it was widely believed that Black men wouldn't make good soldiers or pilots. The audience cracked up when he said, "If you think Black Men can't fight, then go outside and grab one."

I hope I'm still that funny at 93.

(SPECIAL THANKS TO: Ron Brewington, former National Public Relations Officer, Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. who read this piece and emailed me to correct its errors. I really appreciate it!)

Leighann Lord is a stand-up comedian. Check out her other upcoming shows @ Join her on FaceBook. Follow her on Twitter.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Pterodactyl In My Dryer

Grasshopper in My Oven
© 2010 Leighann Lord

The extreme weather – record snowfalls, wild winds, biblical rains – has caused a lot of property damage around the country. Watching news accounts of flooded basements, downed trees and demolished roofs have made me feel very lucky to have emerged virtually unscathed unless you count the pterodactyl in my dryer.

have an old two-stack washer and dryer. When I use it on windy days, I can hear the exterior exhaust flap flipping rapidly open and closed. It took quite a beating this winter. About a week ago instead of flapping, I heard the very loud and close by chirping of birds.

recent storm had torn away one of the exterior dryer exhaust flaps, leaving an opening big enough for a bird to fly in, one did and brought friends. It sounded like they were literally turning my dryer duct into Birdland.

irds had built a nest once in the tree outside my bedroom window. At 4:30 a.m. every morning the newly hatched baby birds would wake me up with their "I'm hungry" serenade. This would have been fine if I too had been ready to rise for the day, but I'm a comedian. I work at night. It seems like the minute I laid head to pillow, the babes would begin their crooning. For weeks I was jolted awake and lay there with murder on my mind, counting quail recipes to get back to sleep.

ventually the birds grew up and flew away and I literally felt the pang of the empty nest syndrome. I missed my morning tweeters. I wondered how they were getting on in the world. Were they dating and making nests of their own, their offspring singing outside some other comedian’s window? While I had learned to live with the birds outside, hearing them sound like they were partying in my dryer was too much.

thought I could fix the problem by banging on the dryer or turning it on to scare them away, but they would just return when the noise stopped. The chirping growing louder and closer. I feared it was only a matter of time before I opened my dryer door and a pterodactyl flew out like a scene out of an Alfred-Hitchcock-meets-Michael-Crichton movie.

inally putting my years of watching the Discover Channel to good use, I had the bright idea to scare off the birds with a natural predator. My squeamish feline friends, however, were reluctant to lend me their cat. "Yes, I'm putting him in the dryer, but I'm not closing the door or turning it on. I just want Mr. Shenanigans to ‘meow’ in the direction of the vent. Hello? Hello?"

My Husband took a more militant approach. He opened the window, fired up the oven and began roasting a 10-pound turkey. The plan? "Maybe the birds will smell me cooking their friend and get the hint to move on," he said.

hey didn't.

e may be in the burbs, but these are New York City birds accustomed to the vagaries of urban living. They weren't giving up their hole in the wall without a fight.

t was time to get professional help. I had to call A Guy. For most things My Guy is My Dad, but he's at the age where he shouldn't be involved in any home repair projects that call for a two-story ladder. Luckily, My Guy had A Guy.

e cleaned out the duct (no nest, just empty beer bottles and cigarette butts), repaired the flap, and I can now use my dryer again without fear of a pterodactyl attack. But, of course, with a house there’s always something, and so now I need an Ant Guy. I hope they’re not in league with the birds. My Husband is scouring cook books to see what recipes might scare the ants away. Baked Grass Hopper.

Leighann Lord is a standup comedian. April 15 - 17 she'll be performing at The Stress Factory in New Brunswick, NJ. Check out her other upcoming shows @ Join her on FaceBook. Follow her on Twitter.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

WWJD: Keep It Locked & Loaded

Questions for The Numbskull Nine

© 2010 Leighann Lord

You've seen the headlines: "Nine members of an anti-government militia group were charged with conspiring to kill a law enforcement officer to start a 'war' against the U.S. Government" and probably thought, “What, again?” It seems like every few years an armed domestic religious group finds itself by chance or choice in conflict with the authorities. In spite of 10 years of Catholic School I must have missed the part of the Bible where Jesus exhorted his followers to engage in armed insurrection.

Did Jesus spend his missing formative years in an Al-Qaeda training camp? Is that where he met the apostles? Were they really fishermen or just unemployed, impressionable losers waiting to be manipulated by a charismatic leader? It sounds like the missing books of the bible may end up reading like an action packed John Grisham novel.

So, The Numbskull Nine are at war with the U.S. Government. Naturally, you only go to war with your enemies and it's human nature to demonize them. So, do these folks reckon that The U.S. Government is in league with the devil? Well, if you've had any unpleasant dealings with The Internal Revenue Service that characterization may seem eerily accurate. But that’s a nifty bit of reverse psychology, the devil recruiting from the respectable ranks of society. In a way it makes sense, since Jesus is an overwhelming prison favorite. If only more people took the trouble to find him before their incarceration, but maybe that’s one of the benefits of having a captive audience.

I'm always perplexed when Christians think God needs their military assistance. Old Testament religions have more of a legitimate claim here, as the OT is a veritable orgy of war, smiting and vengeance killing. But didn't Jesus advocate a kinder, gentler approach? A better question for The Numbskull Nine: If Jesus is omnipotent, why does he need you?

In the grand scheme of things, governments come and go. As unfathomable as it may seem now, the United States will eventually go the way of the Roman Empire, which went the way of vinyl records: oft referenced but no longer relevant. Isn't patience a virtue?

Acquiring weapons? Year-long military training exercises? Plotting murder? Again I ask The Numbskull Nine: Did any of you actually read The New Testament? Anybody? Do you think the Garden of Gethsemane would have gone down differently if Jesus had been strapped? If you could go back in time who would be on your Biblical hit list? Judas, Pontius Pilot, and Barabas for good measure? Do religious fanatics seek to bring about the end of the world because laboring for peace and prosperity in this one sounds too much like work?

Not that it needs any help, but this is the kind of thing that makes Christianity look bad. Why do these groups never organize and do something constructive like playground beautification or post natural disaster clean up?

I'm all for aiming high, but the Government is a rather large target. How about starting small, say, by taking on organized crime? How about shutting down crack houses, meth labs, and strip clubs? How about disrupting the chain of human trafficking, liberating women and children from modern day slavery? How about standing guard to protect struggling home owners from systematic foreclosure and eviction? Better yet, let's keep it really simple and start with a neighborhood watch program. There's so much good that could be done, but perhaps that runs the risk of being too Christ like.

If The Numbskull Nine were just slightly more organized or better financed, they could have air lifted themselves to Afghanistan to help U.S. troops in the fight against the Taliban. Oh wait. They don't like the U.S. government either. So whose side would The Nine be on? Only God knows.

Leighann Lord is a stand-up comedian. April 9 & 10, 2010 she'll be performing at The Brokerage Comedy Club in Long Island, NY. Check out her other upcoming shows @ Join her on FaceBook. Follow her on Twitter.