Working the Streets

10 Aug

It has been an entire week since my girlfriend and I moved to New York City. My classes don’t start until September, but I’ve been using the time to try and get my life in order, especially in terms of how I’m going to make money.

I do have a nice job lined up with an agency called Lango Kids which teaches foreign languages to young children in all five boroughs. It pays pretty well and I can schedule it around my classes, plus the curriculum is fully planned so I don’t have to worry about lesson plans or anything like that. However, I won’t be able to start that until the end of the month, either.

In the meantime, I decided to answer an ad on Craigslist and see if I could be one of those people in Times Square selling tickets for comedy clubs, in the off-chance that I could get some stage time at whatever comedy club I sold tickets for in exchange for my hard work.

After three days of trying this, I can tell you that no amount of stage time is worth the frustration and humiliation of working one of these jobs.

To sell comedy tickets in Times Square is basically volunteering to experience what it’s like to be homeless. It’s identical. You stand on a street corner with a little sign while people purposefully avoid eye contact with you, and store owners keep shooing you away because they think you’ll scare off customers. Actually, it might be more pleasant to be homeless because you get to keep all the money people give you and nobody bothers you by asking for directions to “Harrock Cafe.”

The biggest problem with trying to sell comedy in Times Square is the fact that most of the people there don’t speak English. It’s just a fact. Now, I am a very pro-immigrant, open minded whatever, but if every time you try to sell something you are met with a heavily-accented “no sank you,” no matter how hard you try, you start to feel a little twinge of xenophobia creep up on you, just because you know that language barrier is what’s potentially standing between you and your ability to buy yourself an extra Diet Coke next time you go to the store.

I had two separate people come up to me and try and ask me something in Italian. I’m talking right off the bat starting the conversation in Italian. Do I look especially Italian? Is it the hair?

If any of you have ever been abroad, you know how annoying it is to be somewhere and see some other American tourist try to order his food in a restaurant by slowly shouting “I… WANT… HAMBURGER,” acting like he’s entitled to English-language service no matter what country he’s in. If you find that annoying, then you know I have every right to be kind of annoyed with somebody assuming I can answer their questions in Italian.

Either way, even if they speak one of the other three languages I do know, if they don’t speak English, chances are they’re not going to understand comedy in English. Then when I get the people who DO speak English, I get assholes, people who actually wasted neurons coming up with these gems when they see that I’m advertising a comedy show:

“Is it free?” Right, because if there was a free comedy show in the middle of Manhattan they’d really need assholes like me to stand on street corners and give away tickets. Who in their right mind thinks you could get anything on Times Square for free? You couldn’t get a little girl’s smile for free in Times Square. Why don’t you just punch me in the dick and get your meaning across without wasting as much time?

“IS DAVE CHAPPELLE GONE BE ON DERE?” Usually said by some guy in baggy jeans and a wife beater. Yeah, because, again, if Dave Chappelle was doing a show in New York, they’d really need assholes like me selling tickets on the street corner. I’m also sure that, if he was on this show, he’d LOVE to perform in front of an audience of people like you who will probably shout “I’M RICK JAMES, BITCH!” at him until he gets so frustrated he walks off stage.

“Stand-up comedy? Tell me a joke.” Right, because everybody who sells something is also the person who produces said thing. Why don’t you go up to the guy selling taxi tour tickets, jump on his back, and tell him to give you a ride to the Statue of Liberty? Better yet, go up to the guy selling tickets to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and ask him to show you his dead conjoined twin hanging off his torso.

Yes, I know, I am a comic, but I feel no need to lighten the day of someone being a prick to someone who’s already in an unenjoyable position. Nobody even does that to homeless people.

In three short days I’ve come to despise everything about this job. Even the little sign I carry annoys me because it’s disingenuous. It says “Live Comedy Central Showcase” when the club has NO affiliation with the channel! Every comedy club in Times Square does that! Why? People know what “comedy” is. Nobody needs to be reminded “Oh, stand-up comedy, that’s what they show on Comedy Central!” The people who might need that are probably the “IS DAVE CHAPPELLE GONE BE ON DERE?” types.

All I have to show for three days work dealing with this crap is $33 bucks and someone telling me I have nice hair.

In summary: Don’t get a job selling tickets in Times Square unless you want to hate tourists so bad you’ll hammer-fist the nearest person wearing an “I ❤ NY” shirt. Next chance I get I’m just going to give my boss (who, for the record, is a nice guy and I don’t hold any ill will towards him) my tickets back and just rely on hitting the open mics for stage time.



One Response to “Working the Streets”

  1. Charles 08/10/2010 at 1:29 am #

    Working the streets of New York really sucks, from what I hear. Not only from this, I mean, but also from Patti Smith – apparently buskers have a really shitty time there now. She told the Huffington Post that people who wanted to get into music probably shouldn’t go to New York.

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