Tuesday, September 10, 2013

I Don't Do Fun, I Do Comedy!

Murph & Ray Garvey  - NY Daily News
So, I’m casually flipping through The New York Daily News last week when I saw an old familiar face: Ray Garvey. The headline read: “‘Fame’ for Brooklyn’s ‘great guy’: Athlete, cop, actor, funnyman.” Ray was being posthumously inducted into the Brooklyn Softball Hall of Fame. He was only 52-years-old when he died from cancer. Funny, I never thought I’d get to the point in my life when the phrase “only 52” would come out of my mouth. As my eyes welled up with tears I thought: Has Ray really been gone for three years? I remember going to the wake and it seemed like a New York City comedy industry Who’s Who. It was only fitting. Not only did Ray have many friends but he’d also given opportunities to a lot of people. I was one of them.

I knew of Ray as an actor and comic, but an athlete and former cop? I had no idea. You see, when I met Ray he was managing the now defunct but legendary Pip’s Comedy Club in Brooklyn. Back then, the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood was not known for its friendliness to non-residents. It was – to be polite – clannish. Pip’s itself had a reputation for being a rough-and-tumble room. The audience would eat you up like a cheap hors d’oeuvre. Think: The Caucasian Apollo. <~LIKE IT TWEET IT   But I was young enough in my career to perform anywhere that would have me. My courage was bigger than my discomfort.

Well, not always.

I’ll admit that at the time, going to the rough rooms in white neighborhoods seemed easier than going to the ones deep on the “Chitlin’ Circuit.”  Having had a taste of both, risking the ridicule and rejection of “outsiders” seemed less painful. You know what they say: no one can hurt you quite like family. I’m sure there’s some kind of historically charged pathology at work here that greater minds than mine can suss out, define, and judge. Feel free. Just please don’t all pile on at once. Let she who is without complicated cultural quandaries cast the first stone. <~ LIKE IT TWEET IT

To be honest, the hardest thing for me about going to Pip’s wasn’t the neighborhood or the audience. It was Ray himself. He was so laid back and easy-going that it disturbed me. My very first time at the club, the show was supposed to start at 9 PM. So of course I got there at 8:30 PM. I sat at the bar with my smoke-eating, maple-syrup-smelling candle (smoking in bars and clubs was still legal then) while 9 PM came and went. 9:15 PM. 9:30 PM. I was getting antsy. Ray showed no signs of worry. He knew his audience. They would either show up or they wouldn’t.

When the show finally did start, I didn’t know when I would be going on-stage or how much time I would be doing. These were important things to know or so I thought. I asked Ray since he was the manager and the one giving me stage time, but he just shrugged his shoulders. The shrug said, I’d go on when the emcee introduced me and I’d do whatever amount of time felt right. What? Really? This made me very uncomfortable. I was used to way more structure but Ray’s attitude was have fun. And in my head I thought, I don’t do fun. I do comedy! Yeah, I was a pretty intense chick.

I am slightly – and I do mean only slightly – less uptight now than I was then. Would I like to know when I’m going on and how much time I’m doing? Sure. But for a work out, showcase, city spot I don’t necessarily need to have it writing, 24–hours in advance. Ray gave me the chance not just to perform and become a stronger comedian, but also to learn and grow as a person. I’m not sure if there’s a hall of fame for that. But there should be.

The Urban Erma, the longest running column on StageTimeMagazine.com, was created and written by stand-up comedian Leighann LordListen to the podcast on iTunes and Stitcher RadioWatch the video edition on YouTube.comIf you enjoy The Urban Erma please leave a comment, Like it on Facebook, follow on Twitter, And share it with your friends. (Share it with people who are not your friends and maybe they will be.) TheUrbanErma@gmail.com Get her free e-books of The Great Spanx Experiment and Sometimes I Wish Facebook Had a Hate Button. 

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