Sunday, December 10, 2017


I remember discovering the meaning of existential nihilism when I was booked to do comedy in Reno, Nevada.  I think you would be hard pressed to find a more appropriate setting for such a discovery.

So I get booked to do standup for a week at Catch A Rising Star at the Silver Legacy Casino in downtown Reno Nevada.  Considering most of the paid gigs I got booked on at the time were at indistinct wood-paneled function rooms of bygone hotels or old VFW halls in rural parts of New England from another dimension serving up buffet food and cheap wine, I welcomed the idea to get out of dodge.  Funny because Dodge City might be what you would think Reno may be like, but au contraire and even though it isn’t near Reno, it’s definitely cut from the same David Lynchian landscape.  At least, that is how it feels as a New Englander, traveling out West.

Flying to Reno is not as awesome as flying to Vegas, mainly because it’s considerably more expensive.  Also, when you get off the plane, you’re in Reno.  I’m not saying it’s not an exciting place, in fact, I relished in the retro signage and time-capsule feel of the place.  I’m not sure if it ever had a heyday, but it’s known for where people used to go to get a divorce.  Since I technically got divorced twice to the same person, Reno seemed a completely apropos place.  I was living in the moment.

I get my airfare, pack a huge suitcase and I feel like a road comic again.  Leaving Boston in December at the time was exactly what I wanted to do.  On the plane after being up in the air for some time, peering out beyond the clouds, the vegetation began to change dramatically.  By the time you’ve crossed the second time zone, the earth looks like another planet.  Everything has changed from green shrubbery and giant emerald pines to a flat desert of burnt sienna browns and beiges.  After five hours, I land at the airport and right away, it is staggering.  There’s a life sized sculpture of several bighorn sheep in a realistic wildlife setting right there on the carpet.  I’m thinking, I just want to get my bags and maybe a drink.  I wasn’t ready for fake animals.   I’m an artist.  I specifically went to school for drawing and painting, but taxidermy at the airport is more perplexing than any abstract expressionist shit I’ve ever seen.  There’s more disturbing sculptures and paintings  as I make my way down the long, narrow hallway that leads to baggage claim.  I pass a few slot machines, get my bag and then head outside.

The casino has a free shuttle.  Because of this I have gotten spoiled and have been dismayed to find out other airports don’t have free shuttles to the gig.  It’s exciting to fly to the big show though.  A lot of what I had done up until that point in standup was host and feature shows wherever I could get booked.  The most exotic places I’d worked were Vegas and Florida, so Reno follows suit, in that it’s the type of town if you’re heading there, you should pack a gun.  When you feature in a standup show, you go on after the host and before the headliner.  You perform roughly for a half hour.  There’s something about getting out of your usual digs and traveling.  I’m elated to be in the desert even with the eerie sculpture welcoming.  Plus, Catch has a legendary history including discovering and/or nurturing the careers of guys like Robin Williams and Jerry Seinfeld, so this adds to the elation.  After checking in, showering and spraying my hair, I head down the elevator through the lobby and down an escalator to the club.

The room is set back in the back of the casino on the ground floor of the Silver Legacy casino.   You walk through the lobby, passed all the shops and a few bars, down an escalator where you can peer at the tables and slots from a birds eye view.  Then around more slots to the entrance of the club.  You walk in to a carpeted little number with rows of chairs all facing a rather large, well-lit stage with a piano.  The emcee is Barry Gibb.  Not literally, but he could enter and possibly win a look-alike contest, if there were such a event. Although I was born in the 70’s, I never have, nor since, seen this hairstyle coupled with a beard in real life.  He ends up being the nicest guy in the world.  You couldn’t ask for a room to be warmed up any better.  He plays the piano and jokes with the audience for a good 20 minutes before bringing up the comedians.  I’m so thrilled to be performing on a real stage, with real drinks, sans wood-paneling. 

With my excitement of being in Nevada and my retro sensibilities in tow, I persuaded my friend Christian who was the manager to take me to The Sands after the show.  Its legendary title suggests Vegas swank and old school charm, as in jazz and beehives.  But the Reno version is anything but.  He reluctantly agrees.  We walk about four blocks west passed a casino and through a large parking lot through snow to get to the infamous tower.  The worn carpet of the lobby mocks us as we head toward alcohol.  The yellowing formica bar seemed to mirror the females' sour faces that glare at us like something from a Hunter S. Thompson novel.  The waitress’s gum chewing made me somewhat uneasy, but as a writer I had to confess, “This is perfect!”  Christian on the other hand, is about as excited as cat about to get a bath.  We both look at each other with wonder at the people-watching potential, but we try to play it cool even though we’re secretly fascinated, or I’m fascinated.  We ordered drinks and began to talk shop; comedy, writing, etc..  

We talked about life, wine, the Smiths and The Cosmic Trigger while the extras from My Name is Earl that peppered the bar chatted.  The brightly lit countertop of libations held the same amount of glamour as a bingo game.  There wasn’t going to be any rat pack crooning at this trailer park.  I loved talking with Christian because of his wit and intelligence.  We talked real shit.  I wish that dam gig was still around.  I talked about my family and how I’m dark.  “Dead inside?” he asked.  I laughed.  He is funny too, by the way.  I told him I felt like it’s all a big nothing.  Christian explained, "Existential Nihilism embraces cause and effect in that all feelings and bad experiences are from prior causes . . as a result, there is no free will and nature v. nurture is bullshit too, confirming the futility of it all."  

“Basically,” he went on, “the world lacks meaning or purpose.  All existence; actions, suffering, feelings are senseless.  It literally is all a big nothing.” 

“Oh my God !!!  That’s it ! ! !  That is exactly how I feel ! ! !”  I exclaimed with exasperation. I’m so excited to receive validation of what had been simmering inside of me.  The brooding, the apathy which naturally I was experiencing as a result of death, divorce and disease had a name !  This is nothing short of a revelation, I thought.  Just then, the guy next to Christian, clad in a wife beater with a drug dealer hoodie and Adidas shorts, fell completely off of his barstool.  


I started comedy a while ago.   A long time ago.  I was married.  It was different.  I’m a comic in New York now, I’m single, and I am having a hard time.  Well, wait a day and ask me, and I will say it’s great.  A lot of my perspective hinges on where I got on last, how much money I made this month and if my new stuff worked somewhere.  But generally, and in particular, this week, things are shitty.

I’m not a new comic, but upon moving to New York I became new again in a way, having been unfamiliar with most of what goes on in the New York comedy scene.  It’s par for the course when moving to another city.

But when I ponder my situation a little deeper, what’s frustrating for me is my gender.  There comes a time when you realize, people don’t take you seriously if you are female.  People used to say “oh you do comedy that must be so hard.”  At the time I thought they were morons for saying so.  I used to think doing comedy was great.  You go to a club and work out ideas that you’ve been banging around i.e. funny thoughts, jaunts and stabs at people that irritate you.  It’s an activity that makes all the messed up stuff in your life have a shred of meaning and you make people feel better, including yourself.  It’s symbiotic and so creative.  But in time, I began to see what those annoying people meant.  Audiences are reluctant to like female comics.  And then there’s everybody else.   

When I first moved to New York a comic at Dangerfield’s said to me, “men in the Middle East have it right…women should be covered from head to toe in a berka and kept quiet.”  The same week another comedian gave me a spot at one of the clubs.  He was actually nice to me and happy to help me out, but the next night when I didn’t text him back right away, he texted, “Are you drunk or just a retard?”  Another time, in an effort to help me assimilate in New York, a friend of mine connected me with an established comic.  Long story short, the comic asked me to three-way with him and his girlfriend.

The problem starts when you actually want to make some kind of career out of it.  If you’re just doing your “sketches” at little dives here and there, it isn’t affecting anything.  You’re not challenging the status quo.  But when you have something to say, and when you want to be compensated for your work, now you are creating a wake.  In some cases, bookers don’t respect comics of the female gender, therefore, pay them less.  It is sort of known that back in the day, a now famous female comic was paid a lot less than all of the male headliners in Boston.  No wonder she left.    

In New York, it’s competitive.  Male comics will use their yang prowess to try and intimidate people they deem as inferior, I guess in an effort to stroke their own ego.  Either that or they’ll hit on you.  They’ll insult you.  At Times Square Arts Center, one of the comics said to me “I would never put two female comics on in a row…”  He really should just be embarrassed.  They also underestimate your  intelligence.  I don’t give a fuck what skinny, loser comics who are high have to say.  They are going for the easiest target which makes me question their intelligence and just screams insecurity.  They are trying to make me feel bad.  Look frightened little boy, it’s obvious you are steeped in self-hatred and exhaustion from having to suppress so many secret homosexual urges, that your shame only elicits intense insecurity, I’m here to tell ya, the rest of society takes care of my feeling bad about myself.  Women experience this constantly with sexist, objectifying images in advertising, in conversations and inappropriate glances.  Do you think your stupid comment is upsetting?  You’re just a buffoon, who’s clearly threatened by the possibility that a female comic will steal your shitty $25 dollar spot at a dump in the theatre district.  At the time, I didn’t respond.  But I probably should have at least told him to f**k off.

When frustrated with standup, I used to say “I should have been a dancer,” probably because society values women by their looks.  They really want us to just shut up and look good.  We are socialized to believe that women are second class citizens.  Female comics have to work hard despite this.[1]  Everybody acts like I’m wrong because I want to be valued for my intelligence and talent and everything but my looks.  If I felt I was good looking, I wouldn’t be doing standup in the first place and female comics who are trying to use their looks just want fame and are not into the craft and probably really want to be an actress. 

This is a bigger issue than I thought.  Because a baby comes out of our person, we are somehow deemed as less than?   When you see a guy comic two years in, who automatically receives more credibility from the audience than your 14 years, it’s disheartening to say the least.  side note: I did read Gloria Steinem books when I was seventeen, followed by Camile Paglia, among others.  But I  sort of blocked it out for a period of time. I think for a while I chose to look the other way, for fear that I would be miserable if I was always thinking about this.  However, now that I do standup, and I’m a lot older, there is absolutely no escaping the staunch reality of sexism and inequality.  It only magnifies with time.

People have gone out of their way after a show to say “we don’t usually like female comics, but we really liked you.”  A booker of a big club in Boston said to me while we were backstage about a comic who was on stage, “she’s not that funny but she’s nice to look at.”   

Another time in Boston a booker told me right to my face that “all these paid comics are hacky…”  He was only referring to some of the funniest comedians ever on the planet.  He also mentioned my then husband.  Why would you say that to someone’s wife?  Was I supposed to be impressed by a guy who never paid comics upstairs from a Chinese restaurant?  Maybe people just think that my entire gender is dumb. 

[The word cunt doesn’t offend me at all.
Most of the time when I use it, I’m referring to a man]
-Tweet from me:  @stacykendro

Often society’s message is we’re just arm candy.  How quaint.  A large part of being female (and this is deep in the psyche of most women) is the need to ingratiate yourself to people.  That’s the hard part – being so dam agreeable.  We are socialized to make others feel comfortable, which means if you are a jerk to me, I will smile.  Sometimes, that is the thing for someone with manners to do.  However, don’t mistake my politeness for passivity.  Now I’m talking about New York.  In an effort to take the high road, or to make you believe you didn’t really get to me, I might not retaliate right away.  But just know that I’m Albanian.  I will be planning your demise.  Well, at least I will go home and write about you, but take heed because if you catch me on a bad day, who knows.  Even though “vendetta” is an Italian word, just ask people in the Bronx and they’ll tell you which nationality is scarier.

[1] I think some women are confused about where their gender fits into performing.  They dress up too much.  They dress provocatively.  A lot of skin showing.  They look like a friggen peacock.  I like George Carlin.  He dressed in all black.  Like an artist.  If you are a singer or a stripper, then by all means, wear the dress.  I just don’t see the connection with comedy.  You see minimalist theatre and they are in all black.  They’re not stuffed in a dress, in heels with their arms showing.