Archive for October, 2008

Like Stand Up? Want More? Read This and Help Out

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Stand-Up Comedy hit its boom in the 80’s.  Shows like SNL were bringing sketch comedy to American TVs for a good number of years, and big name acts like  Robin Williams, Eddie Murphy, Jerry Seinfeld, Sam Kinison, and Billy Crystal were both touring to clubs-and thanks to HBO, had specials in constant circulation on TV.

Everyone wanted to be a comedian.  So in the 1990s (when admittedly some great comedy was still happening) there was just…too many.  Cities like DC which had several big name comedy clubs saw demand drizzle and drip-folks weren’t flocking to live shows anymore because, frankly, there was a bit too much exposure and a bit too many people to see.  Now DC has one club, the fabulous Improv which is where I learned how to do some stand up( strong language btw ) and-apart from the occasional appearance at Warner Theater for a mega act like George Carlin-is the only place to see a real headliner in town.

The strange thing is that even though there aren’t a lot of places to play there are a ton of comics in this town-a lot of them very good.  Where are they all you ask?  Well the circuit here in DC is mostly relegated to coffee houses or backrooms in bars once a week.  Open Mic-which is where a schlep like me has to go to learn how to be a good comic-is kind of hard to come by.  Here is a list of the shows available now-you’ll notice a lot of them aren’t in the beltway or even metro accessible making opportunities for a  PT comic such as myself very limited.

Most of the reason I don’t do stand-up anymore is the hassle-Even the guys who do treat you right can only put you on once-tops twice-a month if you are a green like I am:  You’re not filling in the seats with your following yet and its lame to have the same comic come up and do the same thing week in and week out.  Just a few places to play on any given night and an incredible number of comics (one promoter once told me he gets a 150 emails a day looking to get time) makes for long open mic sets (I’ve seen 17 comics do 5-10 minutes each in one night.  Yikes!) and not a lot of opportunity.  No opportunity means no growth as a comic.   No growth as a comic means less and less for you, the audience to see.  So its a problem.

All of this is by way of setting the stage for the punchline-if you will.  John Xereas is Riot Act Entertainment and I’ve always found him to be a pretty good guy.  No longer at HR-57, John has been looking for a new place to open up not just a once a week show-but a full on, 7 nights a week, comedy club. Unfortunately a big box corporation furniture company is also bidding on the place and he fears it isn’t going to go his way.

Now look-I know this is a strange post and some of you might be reading it as “feel bad for my buddy who wants to open a comedy club” but it is a bit more than that.  If you are a person who enjoys comedy, who would like to see more comedy take place or just have a competitor to the Improv in town (and I think this is a situation where competition would help both parties by the way) then I encourage you to read the letter John sent below (after the jump) and help act.  If not-hey, no worries.  I don’t know if it will do any good, but if you would like to give a try, as I am, then I invite you to do so.

Thanks and Happy Halloween everybody!

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Meet the Wizards: Washington Opens Tonight

This was the scene at Monday Nights “Meet the Wizards” night at the Newseum.  The crowd was pretty pumped and surprisingly full (as you can see-I had to go to the third floor to take the picture) for the opportunity to…well…meet the Wizards.  After a fairly quick press conference introducing the players and coaches, ticketed fans got to get in lines for some signed memorabilia and pictures with the players.

Of note-Agent Zero seemed to be walking pretty well for a guy who just had surgery on his knee.  Of course I am neither an expert on knee surgery or how Gilbert Arenas walks…so take that for what you will.

Also-I felt bad for the Wizard Girls (that’s what they are called on the site) who-while looking lovely in their short skirt, small top and boots numbers-were unfortunately and unfairly place right next to the door leading outside.  Monday was such a cold night that the poor girl at the end was barely able to smile with every gust that came in and out of the hallway.

The Washington Wizards take on the Nets of New Jersey to open their season this evening at the Verizon Center.

…and no, I didn’t hear Steve Buckhantz say “NOT POSSIBLE!” or “DAGGER

GWU Knocked Out of First

The Old Little George

…on the list of “Most Expensive Colleges” for 2008-2009, that is.  According to CampusGrotto.com, GWU is second on their list of schools with the “Highest Total Cost”, which combines tuition, room, & board.  They’ve got a separate list for “Highest Tuition”, where GW has dropped all the way to #6.

Don’t despair, DC:  you’ve still got two schools in the top ten, total cost-wise:  GW and Georgetown are both up there (#2 and #4, respectively).   There’s not as much overlap among the two lists as I would have expected; for instance Georgetown doesn’t make the top 25 for highest tuition, but is #4 in total cost?!  The poisonous food can’t be that expensive, can it?

Myself, I graduated from a public university in Virginia (where we watch a different set of rankings) *mumble-cough* years ago.   We gamed the system, my parents and I — they were divorced so I was able to benefit from out-of-state admission, then in-state tuition.  Whoo!  Even so, my parents practically killed themselves paying for it (recession was in the air then, too) so that I wouldn’t start my working life saddled with debt.  I look around at friends still paying theirs off and give thanks on a regular basis.

I can’t imagine what today’s students and parents must think, looking at figures like this. Not too many years ago, these sorts of debt burdens were for med school or law school, not undergrad.   Today’s credit situation can’t be helping, either.

Of course, there’s always hope for those GW alumni who might have very young children now:  Back when I was in high school, the then-most expensive (Bard College) is now down at #25 on the list!

Counting Down

It’s a week away, and that means it’s time to plan for election night, and we can only hope the winner is called before December at a reasonable hour on November 4.  A number of folks are way too organized, like the production at ElectionNight what with dance floors, advertising banners, and pre-paid tickets.  The Dems are apparently planning a party at the Hyatt Regency and the Republicans… aren’t, as far as I can tell.

Of course, there’s always my plan, which is avoiding the crowds, calling DCSnacks, and watching the results on twitter from the comfort of my own living room.

Random Bag Searches on Metro

Metro’s new Red and White Signs indicating you are in a “we can look in your bags” zone.

According to The Washington Post, Metro announced it intends to conduct random bag inspections of passengers using the system.  Five to eight Metro Police officers (along with a bomb sniffing dog) are now fully trained and ready to show up and start looking in the bags of Metro Rail and Bus users.  The checks won’t happen at all stations or happen all the time but only “when transit police determine that circumstances- such as an elevated threat level- warrant heightened vigilance.”

I, for one, have some serious concerns about this program.  Truthfully, my thoughts on all security check-points can be mostly summed up by George Carlin’s discussion of “Airport Security” (Lots of foul language by the way)-but I’m not a complete idiot.  I realize that we live in a post-9/11 world and that there are people who would like to do some serious damage to our Nation’s Capitol.  But:

  • There are only eight officers ready to go.   Even assuming one officer can handle a station on their own (which is doubtful) that’s 8 rail stations/Bus stops out of…well… a whole lot more than eight (there are a 12,216 bus stops and 86 stations.  You do the math.  I can’t).  How effective could this possibly be?
  • Let’s pretend someone wanted to blow something up and they were going to use Metro to deliver their explosive device.  Let’s even pretend that Metro knows what this person wants to blow up and where they are likely to get on the train.  The real pain about Metro for these inspections?  It’s all connected.  If the target is the Pentagon and the bomber lives near me between the Airport and Pentagon City Mall-It’s just as easy to walk to Crystal City as it is the Pentagon City Metro.  It wouldn’t be much more difficult to take a bus down to Braddock Rd. and get on the train down there.  So if you’ve got eight people at the gates of even three Metro stops-they can’t get to what is already on the Metro from a point further out.
  • Inspections only concern those people who actually ride the Metro.  You can (and should be able to) refuse the bag search so long as you don’t mind not getting on the train/bus.  Well at least at that station anyway…or at least until Metro Police leave.  They won’t detain anyone who refuses a bag check either-which might come in handy if you happen to be carrying anything else that you wouldn’t want Metro to find-not necessarily just a bomb.  (You know in case you’re like me and smuggle breakfast on to the train each morning…)
  • I’m not a big believer in the 5-10 second bag search by the way.  Even at baseball games (where at least they search everyone and not just every Nth person a la the Metro system) they do this kind of half assed “make sure nothing is obvious” search.  Maybe I don’t understand the mind or a terrorist/violent person but if I’m planning on perpetrating some violence on Metro I think I would take the time to hide my bomb a bit better than to stick it at the bottom of my briefcase.
  • Inconvenience.  I’m willing to forgive a lot of things, including some hassle at the train station, if it will make DC safer for everyone.  I just don’t really think this will-so the idea of me getting stuck behind the tourist family taking 20 bags to Reagan to fly home for no good reason really…ugh.

This of course is just one view.  Maybe I’m missing something?  Agree?  Disagree?  What do you think about Metro’s new Bag Searching Policy?

Palin, Obama Head To Battleground Virginia

Sarah Palin and Barack Obama will each be making appearances in Virginia this week intent on winning the battleground state for their respective tickets. My prediction is that Obama takes it, but feel free to disagree.

  • Sarah Palin will be at Salem Football Stadium today. Tickets can be had by following the procedure here. The stadium seats 20,000.
  • Barack Obama will be at two rallies tomorrow. One will be held at Harbor Park in Norfolk, VA (ticket info), and the other will be held at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA (open to public, details here).

In other words, get your rally on.

Metrobus Gets A Facelift

I’m not a bus person.

Neither was Ludacris in the film “Crash”. Growing up in suburban New England, the bus was never a big part of my life and I’m more of a Metro person now that I live in the city. I do occasionally enjoy the DC Circulator when my friends drag me on it (thanks Cynthia.)

However lots of people do ride the Metrobus and this past week people riding on the U8 line might have noticed an upgraded ride taking them to their daily grind. According to the Washington Post, the new sleek buses will be outfitted with amenities like vandal-resistant seats (cause I hate it when I have to sit on a gang symbol) and handhold straps (in case the vandal-resistant seats do get vandalized.) Right now WMATA is phasing them in slowly and hopefully we can see them in action on the 5A route that runs between L’enfant and Dulles.

I think the busses look really great and maybe it’ll make riding the bus cool enough that maybe I’ll even do it. Has anyone out there seen the new busses yet?

Carlos Mencia Coming to Town

I’m not a big Carlos Mencia fan (I know, the heresy), but I think there are many of you who would love to see him live at Dar Constitution Hall down at 18th and C. There are still plenty of tickets available for the 8pm show on Friday, November 14th, so head on over to Ticketmaster where they’re selling them for $42 a pop.

For those of you not familiar, Carlos is a stand-up comedian best known for his Comedy Central sketch comedy show Mind of Mencia. To sample the self-proclaimed “Equal Opportunity Offender,” check him out in this Youtube clip.

What Does Washington DC Mean To You?

My pal Molly at the Washington Post recently told me about an essay contest the paper is having. Between now through the end of 2008, the paper wants to know what you think it means to be a Washingtonian. The entries should be no more than 300 words (so this isn’t your college term paper) and the winning entries get $100. You can get complete details at their web site.

As one of many that enjoy writing about The District I encourage everyone to express their viewpoint- after seeing that it’s only a short essay I may even pen an entry- I’m sure my 11th grade English professor would be proud!

Mayor Adrian Fenty and Barack Obama

Mayor Fenty is good friends with Barack Obama. He is one of Obama’s big city mayoral endorsements. So naturally one has to wonder if people like he and Newark, NJ Mayor Cory Booker will end up in a potential Obama administration, right? Says Mayor Fenty: “This is the one thing that I would not do if President Obama asked me.”

The one thing he would not do if Obama asked him. The only thing? NBC Washington commenter Linda weighs in: “Obama has done everything right so far. Why would he ever entertain having such a loser in his administration. We don’t want him either. Be reminded he didn’t even show up for the roll call at the Democratic  Convention.”

During my time in the tri-state area, I was a witness to some of Obama’s interactions with Cory Booker. I also saw Obama’s friendship with Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick develop. I have always gotten the impression that Obama believes in having strong Democrats in power in as many different places at possible. I would be shocked if Obama appointed any local or state officials to his administration. He will likely appoint from the national level for high level positions, and reserve lower level positions for those who got him elected. That is, if he wins.

What do you think?

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