I did a show tonight for a group of about a hundred or so kids at Job Corps in Glenmont. These are kids who can still make it, sitting on the cusp with a chance to do something. I spoke to them before and after; they were enthusiastic, excited, and congenial. When we arrived, they were discussing an incident that had occurred earlier in the day, and that strange energy carried over to the show put on by a friend of mine who works for them and also does stand-up locally.
It was a Hell of an experience. They’d alternately talk over you, then you over them, then they’d be hanging on to your every word. Every one of us that went out there got a heckler, but unlike any other audience I’ve been with, they policed themselves and stood up to the more obnoxious and disrespectful of the bunch. Then my friend Vernon almost died…well, not really. But one kid who yelled gay slurs finally blew up, tried to go up to the stage, but was stopped and escorted out. It was wild, memorable, and thrilling. Being who and what we are, we were laughing about it almost immediately.
After the show a group rushed the stage. Though I’ve gotten far bigger laughs and despite my attempts to tailor my set for them, I felt it didn’t connect in a way it usually does. In fact, I’ll be honest: I was garbage. I bombed. Yet afterwards, I still got more appreciative smiles, compliments, and handshakes than I’ve ever gotten from any other performance.
More importantly, though, I got a chance tonight to show a side of myself I rarely show and speak to kids like the ones I used to know. I was able to tell them what I wish I could tell so many of my friends from elementary school: that yes, there are really people rooting against you but that the best revenge is success in spite of their cynicism. I knew too many that didn’t get that chance, and I don’t know where they are now. Some were, maybe still are, incarcerated or worse. Not all, mind you; our school was a mix of kids from the projects and a suburban development across the street. And I do run into and reacquaint with those from our projects that made good of themselves and their families. But God, there’s so many more that end up in the newspaper for all the wrong reasons. They’re the ones that stick out to me, because I remember being in class with them and playing with them and wondering how the Hell that happened.
It’s all too easy. Tonight was a sobering reminder. I have gratitude. But I also have hope that there’s somebody in that audience who’s going to buck a trend and reverse a course. There was a sense of optimism mixed with all that chaos and nervous energy. It was weird, beautiful, and inspiring.
- Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye…
- Listen to me LIVE as guest co-host of Alternative to Sleeping tonight at 10pm!
- Realtors: “WAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH” George Hearst III: “NONONOO SSSSHHH IT’S OKAY, it’s okay…here. Here’s a pacifier.” Kristi: “#oops.”
- Open Mic web series premiere tonight @ Lark Tavern
- Trust Me, You’re Going to Want to See This