Saturday, July 29, 2017

CRASHING: INTERVIEW WITH GENO

I’ve been recording a podcast with a friend of mine.  For weeks we hadn't launched it because we’re comics.  What that means is we’re not organized.  It took a while but now we have it here.  The podcast is called Comic’ly Unstable.  This week we interviewed Geno Bisconte, who is a great, funny comedian and best friend of the host, Tommy A.  Geno has his own show on the Cumia Network and you can go check it out here:  www.compoundmedia.com/show/in-hot-water/   We all go way back and the connection is comedy and Brooklyn.  Those two lived together at one point and although it was a great interview, the bromance between them was practically filling the room like a big, thick cloud.
   
Comedy careers have ups and downs and are completely unpredictable.  My experience is sometimes you’re in Vegas making serious money and sometimes you’re in rural Pennsylvania telling jokes to a drunk bridal party for $100 bucks questioning all of your life decisions up until that point.    After talking with Geno it became evident that his timeline has been no less dramatic.  Recent highlights for him are appearing in HBO’s Crashing a new sitcom starring Pete Holmes about standup comics in New York.  He was invited to roast Gary Busey at the Friar’s club which is a New York staple for show business.  It was founded by Milton Berle and the current abbot is Jerry Lewis.  All that said, the interview was more about hard times and how to endure them, and coming out the other side.

He told us at one point, he was living in his car.  The lease ended at his apartment and his then roommate was going to LA and rather than deal with getting a new apartment right away, he decided to wing it.  He slept in Jersey at his aunts at times, and much like Pete Holmes character in the aforementioned show Crashing, he slept on friends’ couches. 

What I came away with after listening to him is that it might get impossibly hard, but it will be worth it to stick it out.  New York and living for your art is pretty challenging.  Particularly, (especially) if you’ve chosen either New York or LA.  You have ups and downs and take risks that would cripple other people.  I suspect most people would never wager such a bet because it definitely blows up in your face at times.  You do shows, you get work, you get fired, you get rejected.  You do shitty gigs, and you probably develop a drinking problem, but here’s a side note, if your life is in the toilet but you are grateful for those gigs, you might be headed in the right direction.  I’d rather enjoy myself at a dump in New Jersey and have a good time than be sitting in the back of the room rolling my eyes and lamenting at how shitty it all is.  But we’ve all been on either side of that fence.

The business is tough.  You have to have conviction.  I suspect that the wake that is created by trying to be true to yourself will be made up of the good, the bad and the ugly.  <---- but how amazing is that?  You have to deal with the shit, but you ultimately will revel in the glory.  I think this is what he was getting at.

My take after doing standup 14 years, and the point of a lot of what Mr. Bisconte was getting at, is the fallout that sticking to your guns creates is, at times unbearable, albeit fucked up.  You lose relationships, apartments, jobs, cars.  There is no safety net and it’s terrifying, but you have to stick it out. <--- (this is exactly what I’m currently going through with comedy + life).  But isn’t it strange i.e. the universe’s timing of this interview and my own crisis?  <--- (maybe not.  Most comics are having crises).

If you are gifted the freedom of a catastrophe, but then get to the point where you’re not ruined by it, I bet it’s the best feeling in the world.  I’m still going through it, so I’m suffering somewhat, but Geno seemed content.  I must state this again because none of the comics I know feel this way ---> he seemed happy ! 

We’re all sort of waiting for the reward, but I’m sensing that it’s already here.  <--- the trick is to feel that way regardless of circumstances.  Artists live life on their own terms, which isn’t always great, but I think it’s the conviction of saying “I can do this” that is so empowering.  You can come out the other side and say you didn’t die.  You’re still here as Elaine Stritch epitomized.  At present, I have a part-time office job, roommates from hell & my car got totaled so I’m not 100% feeling this, I’m sort of mad at the universe, but you know who isn’t?  Geno Bisconte.  Twitter: https://twitter.com/genobisconte

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

GREEK FORTRESS

I have a lot going on right now.  I live with awful roommates.  I’m always trying to not be home so I don’t have to see one of the pterodactyls.  That’s what it’s come to.  I’ve assigned a nickname of an ugly prehistoric bird to the people that I share an apartment with.  I live in an abundantly-tiled Greek house that resembles a fortress that begins with a nose-bleed angled, city code-defying cement staircase that leads up to the main floor.  The first floor is half in the ground.  They call that “garden level” in New York, which was probably invented by real estate agents, because all feasible square footage is rented out in this city.  In other states, what towns call a cellar, in New York is a shitty basement apartment.  

The landlord of said dwelling lives upstairs.  He is a plump, talkative Greek man who speaks as if he has a swollen tongue that’s gotten pinned while wrestling with the rest of his mouth to spit out the English language.   After he has spoken in his long-winded, overly self-indulgent manner in extreme broken English for what seems like an eternity, I often say, “what?!” 

I cannot begin to express the violence I feel for all of these people.  Because of this, I realize I do need to work on myself some, while simultaneously feel completely validated in imagining their untimely, somewhat horrific demise.

Yesterday I heard a knock at the door roughly around 5:30PM.   I had a sneaking suspicion Aristotle Onasis was on the other side of the door waiting to proclaim his case for bothering me in grunts that resemble communication.  Avoidance doesn’t really work with this fisherman.  After several tries at knocking with no answer, he walked back down the hallway towards the foyer, opened the front door to the house – a grown man mind you – reached his arm outside and rang the buzzer to my apartment.  The shrill, earsplitting decibels of the buzzer could wake up an entire submarine regimen.  He leaned on the buzzer too, to be extra annoying.  How quaint.  I still ignore it.  After the fourth or fifth time, I begin to reach exasperation, I virulently open the door to ask him what he wants.  I yell at him stating that I’m not really dressed and what the hell is so important (clearly he doesn’t get the hint that nobody wants to talk to him).  Even his wife sleeps in Flushing.  

First he asks if we have a washing machine in the house, which is just “THIS IS WHAT YOU WERE RINGING THE DOORBELL LIKE A FUCKING PSYCHO FOR ???????  REALLY!!??!!”  First of all, the pterodactyls can’t afford soap or paper towels, so it’s funny to me that he would even think that they bought an appliance.  Then he says he’s bringing the ladder for one of the roommates (the one I choose to call the Macedonian whore – she’s in a different blog).  I proceed to just yell at him, telling him to leave it in the hallway because I’m in my pajamas and then shut the door.

Lack of understanding American social moors or boundaries might be what he hides behind as a disguise to get people to interact with him.  That aside, describing him as wildly inappropriate doesn’t seem to stress enough what he is.  He tells the neighbors I’m his girlfriend.   He makes offers of taking me to Greece.  One time he and his family had come back from a wedding (this was before his wife retired to another part of the borough).  It was late.  The weather was nice, so I was sitting outside, smoking.  Most likely he spotted me from his balcony about, then rushed downstairs to bother me.  He was in a robe and his rotund, watermelon-like stomach was sticking out.  He made small talk and then quickly proceeded to show off his construction chops by showing me pictures on his phone of the Athens condo that he built out.  I may have been indulging him because the rent was late, I can’t remember looking back.  I am a comedian after all, I can’t really just walk away when people are being ludicrous).  But also I had had some wine and it was kind of entertaining.  In hindsight, I’m questioning why I was so polite toward Baklava.  Sometimes you have to be gracious in the face of others’ rudeness.  He has invited me to go live with him in Greece on more than one occasion.  He’s so lucky I don’t have a gun.  It’s just so wrong that I can’t even make it clever. 

I did get him back though.  He asked me how old I thought he was once, and I said seventy.  It’s not clear exactly how old he is, but he’s arrogant, so in his mind he’s still in his fifties, and by his reaction it’s clear I was way off (but not by much I suspect).  A hundred bucks says he’s sixty-nine.