Mileage

I got in a lot of running this summer. Several hundred miles in fact. I was already doing quite a bit of it but a friend of mine, Regina, gave me a gift out of the blue. She bought a raffle item of 8 running tours guided by a guy named Matt. The idea being that he would show me different running routes in and around the city. Paths that aren’t too obvious.

Matt’s an experienced runner, with a bunch of marathons under his belt. I’ve been an on-again, off-again runner for many years but never did much over 5 miles. He frequently runs from his place in the Upper West Side to where he teaches in Queens, which is something like 15 miles. So I was worried I’d get left behind.

He had me on a regimen of 3 to 4 miles a day, with a longer run on Fridays. And each week, we increased the long run by 10% or so. Matt showed me about an app for my phone to track my distance and time. This was the best thing to help me make goals and improve my running times.

We met at 86th and Central Park West and then go wherever we were headed that day, depending on our work schedules and the weather. We ran up to the little red lighthouse at the George Washington Bridge. We ran down the West Side Highway, around the tip of Manhattan, across the Brooklyn Bridge and back across the Manhattan Bridge. We ran up into the Bronx and around Yankees Stadium. We went across the Queensboro Bridge and around some places in the northwest corner of Queens, including the Socrates Sculpture Park.

My running guru, Matt, at the Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens.

My running guru, Matt, at the Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens.

This was supposed to culminate in running the Queens Half Marathon a couple weeks ago. I worked my way up to 15 miles in a single run, which is more than the half-marathon distance. But I started to feel some pain in my hip. I took a couple days off and ran the loop in Central Park. The pain moved into the socket. So I had to stop the running for now.

I’ve been doing some physical therapy, which included some of the most painful stretching of my IT band. I think both of my therapists are under 5 feet tall. One is pretty gentle. The other is tough. She likes to tell me the pain means I’m getting better. Turns out, my hip pain was a symptom of something messed up in my lower spine. I’ve also been getting some acupuncture. I can’t believe that’s covered by my insurance. So cool.

I tell you, though, you have to always ask the question, “is this in-network with my insurance?” and not simply “do you take XX insurance?” That the difference between just shelling out a co-pay and several hundred dollars out of pocket.

I really miss the running. Some people don’t like it but once I feel my legs and lungs are humming, I really get a lot out of it. Be warned: it does take over your life. Your schedule, your sleep, how much you drink (if you drink), and whether you’re going to do anything else that day. I also wrecked a toenail. It’s like there was bruise under the nail that will probably take months to grow out. But that’s just the little physical stuff.

It’s been a goal to run a marathon. Matt said I should run several halfs before doing that. I can’t wait to make this happen.

Stand-up comedy

This summer I decided to finally take the plunge and try a bunch of new things. In addition to the workshop with Norman Taylor, I did scene study with Lee Brock at Barrow Group, and I took a stand-up comedy class with Jim Mendrinos at Gotham Comedy Club. I don’t know when he’ll be teaching this again as he is working on his TV show but if you’re interested, I highly recommend him. He’s very smart and works with each student individually based on where they are, not just putting things out in a blanketed way for the whole class. Also, you work each class.

I didn’t want to keep doing the same stuff over and expect different results while at the same time double down on what I think are my strengths. I wanted to struggle and learn again. It’s been a long time since I’ve done that.

Do I look happy?

Do I look happy?

I don’t think it would be honest or fair of me at this point to say I’m a comedian. That’s a few hundred sets away. There is certainly a lot of cross over from acting and doing solo performance. But there is an equal amount of unlearning things. And I need to do a solo performance to stand up translation of ideas. Instead of going 3 or 4 places, I have to think about how to get to the joke in 10 seconds.

I was getting burned out on solo performance. So much work building up to a production and then it dies. It really until that point that enough audiences have seen the stuff that I’d know what the heck it was.

A bad audience was a long punishment for me. A great audience was heaven. But the more I do it, the less they want you to talk to them.

Then there was the explaining. “What’s you show about?” And I’d tell them. Until I was blue in the face. I was all but doing the whole thing for some people. I finally got to a place where I wouldn’t do that with people. If people seemed genuinely interested at the start, then I’d continue. If not, I’d change the subject to spare them the awkwardness. Then you have to keep track of who was interested and who wouldn’t find it to their liking. So I would err on the side of caution and not tell most people about what I was doing.

The great thing about stand up is that everyone and I mean EVERYONE has a relationship to it. Once people get beyond the initial weirdness of my saying that I’m doing stand up, they start telling me about their favorite comedians. Instead of telling them what my show is about and doing some explanation dance, I get asked who my favorite comedians are. I suppose that’s their way of figuring out if I would be their kind of comedian. (I like George Carlin and Marc Maron.)

One of the tough things starting out on top of getting material and used to being up there without a shield, is doing open mics. It’s a lot like performing for the bad audiences I’d work doing solo performances. You’re in a room, usually a basement because for some reason a lot of comedy in New York is done in basements, with a bunch of other guys (save for 2 women) who are either waiting to go up and do their dick jokes or figuring out why their dick jokes didn’t work.

You hear lots of advice of what to do and what not to do. I think the best advice is that you have to bomb 100 times before you’ve earned your stripes. Then it doesn’t matter to you so much. Also, you’ve probably figured out what you want to say by that point.

I think I successfully wrote this post without one laugh in it. I’ll count this towards my 100.

Hurlyburly

Had a great time working on Hurlyburly at the Chain Theatre. It’s such a great space. At one point it was a chain factory. They have space for small rehearsals downstairs. They can even build scenery there. The lobby is one of the biggest for Off Off spaces in the city and they always have a decent art show on display there. Plus the dressing room is big enough to hold 8 or more people without feeling crammed.

It was really nice of Rich Ferraioli and Greg Cicchino to ask me to audition for the show. It was one of those auditions where they’ve met me and like me but haven’t seen my work. That can be awkward if it doesn’t go well. Ever get in a relationship with someone and only find out too late that they’re not a talented actor? Or not as talented as they claim to be? I don’t recommend it.

Fortunately, this was not the case for me here. (Or, who knows, this may have been a pity casting.)

The cast was really great. Deven Anderson, Jackie Collier, Rachel Cora, Kirk Gostkowski, Brandon Hughes and Christina Perry pulled a lot out of this monster of a script, especially Kirk who was on nearly the whole time as Eddie. This is a long play, even though they got the okay to use the slightly shorter version New Group did in 2005. You don’t see many with that kind of running time nowadays. Part of the festivalization of the theater. I suppose I could argue the merits of both.

Me, left, Kirk, Deven and Brandon (on couch). I liked this set.

Me, left, Kirk, Deven and Brandon (on couch). I liked this set.

I played the role of Artie, who was played on stage by one of my heroes, Wallace Shawn recently and Jerry Stiller in the Broadway production from the ‘80s. I was a little nervous because a good friend of mine, Jackie Sydney, was his assistant back then and she came to see this production. (She gave me a thumbs-up personal review.)

Jackie Collier and me trying to out cool one another backstage.

Jackie Collier and me trying to out cool one another backstage.

It was good to be on stage with other people having spent most of last year doing a solo show. It is a bit strange to me now to not have to carry every moment of a play. But I did to have a ton of laughs backstage. I haven’t had that in a long time. Welcome relief due to a lot of sadness in real life recently. Aimee’s mom died suddenly last month and it’s been, well, tough. I flew out with her for the funeral and other arrangements in Ohio and barely made it back in time due to the snow and cancelled flights to make half-hour for the first preview performance. I’ll write more about this when I have processed it better. On the other hand, this may stay private.